GENERAL SANTOS CITY (MindaNews / 30 June) – We suggested in our June 28 Mind da News article that the Government, Moro Islamic Liberation Front and their supporters should welcome the petitions for the Supreme Court to declare unconstitutional, illegal and void the CAB (Comprehensive Agreement on Bangsamoro), the FAB (Framework Agreement on Bangsamoro) and its Annexes.
We also suggested that they urge the Court to hear, not dismiss, the case and finish it before the Congress opens its Third Regular Session in the last week of July; and, that they challenge the Congress to restore the deleted provisions of Draft BBL should the Court uphold the constitutionality and legality of the CAB, the FAB and its Annexes.
We believe the Court must disregard all probable technicalities and hear the petitions on merit because this is a rare opportunity for it to:
- Rule on the issues of national sovereignty and territorial integrity, the core of the opposition to the grant of autonomy to the Moros;
- Explain how Sections 15 to 21 of Article X of the 1987 Constitution relate to the entire Constitution in defining and establishing regional autonomies and to certain national laws; and,
- Clarify the implications of the 2008 Court Decision declaring the Memorandum of Agreement on Ancestral Domain on the CAB, the consolidation of the FAB, the Annexes and other Agreements since 1997.
For the Government, the MILF and their supporters, the petitions are a blessing in disguise. It is futile to argue the constitutionality of the Draft Bangsamoro Basic Law in congressional committee hearings; it is futile for the supporters of Draft BBL to lobby. The legislative prerogative and political interests of the members of the Congress are too formidable to overcome – more so when fortified with egotism and arrogance.
The proper venue to argue, really, is the Supreme Court. But they cannot take their case to the Court. They cannot ask the Court to certify the constitutionality and legality of Draft BBL and the FAB and the Annexes that the Draft embodies – the Draft filed in the Congress as Senate Bill No. 2408 and House Bill No. 4994 (revised as HB 5811).
After a watered-down BBL is signed by the President, it may be questioned in the Court. But the Congress will be the primary respondent. Even if the Court rules in favor of the BBL, the deleted key provisions of Draft BBL will not be restored. What the Court will sustain is the constitutionality and legality of the enacted BBL, not that of Draft BBL.
This opportunity of the Government and MILF is unexpected, a blessing in disguise. The opposition bloc in the Congress led by Rep. Ferdinand Martin G. Romualdez, the lead Philconsa (Philippine Constitution Association) petitioner, must be dissatisfied with the revisions in HB 4994. The bloc must be asking for more revisions in HB 5811 which the majority is unwilling to grant. The shortest means to block the passage of HB 5811 is by having the Court void the basis of the BBL. Drying up the source dries up the river.
The Government, MILF and their supporters must come in full force. As a respondent, Justice Marvic Leonen should take a leave during the pendency of the case to actively participate in the hearing; his honor is on the block. The Aquino Government’s deal with MILF is according to his master plan. Representatives of the living members of the Constitutional Commission, the Citizens Peace Council, the Friends of Peace and other peace advocates can – and must – participate as intervenors or friends of the court.
To let peace live, it is imperative to convince the Court that Draft BBL does not violate national sovereignty and territorial integrity of the Philippines; it is within Sections 15 to 21 of Article X and other provisions of the 1987 Constitution and certain national laws; and, in ruling the Memorandum Agreement on Ancestral Domain unconstitutional, the Court did not void the MOA-AD but instead suggested how it could keep the peace process alive. Draft BBL is, ironically, sanctioned by the Court in its 2008 MOA-AD Decision.
The petitions are meant to kill. Yet, properly handled by the respondents, they are the best and most timely reprieve for Draft BBL. If the Court rules in favor of the petitions, the BBL is dead. But, if they are dismissed on merit, the FAB, its Annexes and the CAB are “safe”, not “poisonous”, as the petitioners charge; Draft BBL is revitalized.
If the Court finds Draft BBL and its sources constitutional and legal, the respondents should ask that the provisions deleted from Draft BBL be ordered restored. However, even without the order, the Congress, true to its Honor, should restore them.
[Author’s Note: Mind da News, the alternate of COMMENT, is a comment on current news. The author may be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.]