NAGA CITY (MindaNews/08 April) — This thought paper poses some questions about the political aspect of “A comprehensive package for autonomy” as articulated in the article of that title by GPH peace panel member Prof. Miriam Coronel-Ferrer, as published in the Philippine Daily Inquirer (8/29/11, pp. A1, A13). This is intended most of all as an inquiry in aid of the GPH-MILF peace negotiations.
The GPH panel said, among others, that: “The GPH panel believes that many elements of the contemplated substate may be introduced within the parameters of regional autonomy, the 1987 Constitution and other existing, progressive domestic and international laws. How so, the parties can further discuss…. In all, the GPH panel is saying that most of the demands of the MILF for self-governance can be accommodated within the present Constitution. By passing a new Organic Act, a more functional, representative and participatory governance institution with many of the features envisioned by the MILF can be incorporated.” (italics supplied here)
The GPH peace panel said that among “possibilities” in “a spectrum of possible forms of self-governance” that are “in between independence and autonomy” is “an asymmetrical relationship, such as the MILF’s proposed ‘substate,’ which accords a special semifederal status to one unit.” (italics supplied here)
The GPH peace panel said that “the two parties are of one mind that powers relating to foreign affairs, national defense, postal service, coinage and monetary policies, citizenship and naturalization shall remain with the national government… What remains to be negotiated are other powers reserved for the national government in the Organic Act which the MILF wants delisted. These include the administration of justice, quarantine, customs and tariff, general auditing, national elections, maritime, land and air transportation and communications, and patents and copyrights.” (italics supplied here)
Finally, the GPH peace panel said that “While it understands the vision behind the MILF’s proposal for a constitutional amendment that will allow the creation of a Bangsamoro substate whereby they themselves, will craft the Bangsamoro Basic Law, the GPH is saying that this option is not viable at this time.” (italics supplied here)
Here are our corresponding questions in aid of the peace negotiations:
1. What are those “many” or “most” elements/demands/features of the MILF-envisioned sub-state referred to above? Taken together, do those “many” or “most” (quantitative) elements constitute key or defining (qualitative) features of such a sub-state? (even as the term “sub-state” itself may be replaced by a mutually acceptable term)
2. Most importantly, how would such elements/demands/features of the MILF-envisioned sub-state be accommodated by the passing of a new Organic Act? What amendments or revision of the present Organic Act R.A. 9054 would be introduced? What other new legislation, if any? What executive actions? Can drafts of all these be shown?
3. Considering that the GPH peace panel says that it can accommodate within the existing legal framework “many” or “most” elements of the MILF-envisioned sub-state, which the GPH itself describes overall as involving “an asymmetrical relationship… which accords a special semifederal status to one unit,” is the GPH saying that this special asymmetrical semi-federal relationship can be accommodated within the existing legal framework of a basically unitary system? Could we be shown how?
4. Considering the governmental powers reserved for the national government in the Organic Act which the MILF wants delisted, how would the peace negotiations deal with the jurisprudence in Kida vs. Senate (G.R. No. 196271, October 18, 2011). citing records of the 1986 Constitutional Commission, that “the enumeration of powers granted to autonomous regions in Section 20, Article X of the Constitution… are the limits of the powers of the autonomous government. [underscoring supplied here] [These are: (1) Administrative organization; (2) Creation of sources of revenues; (3) Ancestral domain and natural resources; (4) Personal, family, and property relations; (5) Regional urban and rural planning and development; (6) Economic, social and tourism development; (7) Educational policies; (8) Preservation and development of the cultural heritage; and (9) Such other matters as may be authorized by law for the promotion of the general welfare of the people in the region. Note that the latter “general welfare clause,” while potentially expansive, is still subject to the general limitation in the chapeau of Section 20 stating that the legislative powers of autonomous regions are “subject to the provisions of this Constitution and national laws.”]
Those not enumerated are actually to be exercised by the national government.”? The latter is because of Section 17, Article X of the Constitution which provides that: “All powers, functions, and responsibilities not granted by this Constitution or by law to the autonomous regions shall be vested in the National Government.”
5. The existing legal framework includes not only “progressive domestic and international laws” but also some conservative Philippine jurisprudence on autonomous regions, inc. the ARMM, in particular. [See among others: Limbona vs. Mangelin, 170 SCRA 786, at 794-95 ; Abbas vs. Comelec, 179 SCRA 287 ; Cordillera Broad Coalition vs. Commission on Audit, 181 SCRA 495, at 506 ; Disomangcop vs. The Secretary of Public Works and Highways, 444 SCRA 203 ; Atitiw vs. Zamora, G.R. No. 143374, September 30, 2005; Sema vs. Comelec, G.R. No. 177597, July 16, 2008; Ampatuan vs. Puno, G.R. No. 190259, June 7, 2011; and Kida vs. Senate, G.R. No. 196271, October 18, 2011. These shall be surveyed in a separate study paper]. How would/could the passing of a new Organic Act deal with this jurisprudence (which are largely considered to be on the same level as no less than the Constitution itself) in so far as it may have a limiting effect contrary to the spirit of a more autonomous or self-determinative “sub-state”?
6. What does the GPH understand of the vision behind the MILF’s proposal for a constitutional amendment? What does the GPH refer to as “this option [that] is not viable at this time”? Is it referring to having a constitutional amendment, or to the crafting of the Bangsamoro Law by the Bangsamoro themselves, or to both? When the GPH says “not viable at this time,” what is the time frame that it is referring to? When, and under what conditions, might the said option become viable? Could it become viable “within the time frame of this administration,” i.e. before the end of its term in mid-2016?
7. What pro-active steps can the this administration take so that the said option becomes viable? How does this administration intend to deal with “given the realities and, sad to say, the dominance of an unsympathetic majority thinking on the minority population’s claims”? How do the two other parts of the “3-for-1” proposal relate to these realities?
In ending this inquiry in aid of the peace negotiations, I now refer to the last of seven unsolicited advisories of Archbishop Orlando B. Quevedo, O.M.I. in his recent MindaNews piece on “Why and How the GPH-MILF Peace Process Can Succeed,” thus: “I believe that both panels should seriously consider whether or not the baby’s birth and continuing life are possible, with the necessary guarantees, within existing basic laws or the present Constitution. If yes, there is no problem. If no, a pro-active stance is necessary. The time was ‘yesterday’ for the GPH panel to inform, educate, and persuade the three branches of government to prepare the necessary surgical amendments so that RSD for the Bangsa Moro with its political, economic, and cultural implications.”
The sooner this is clarified, the better for the peace negotiations, inc. for the GPH peace panel to seek a clarification or expansion of its negotiating mandate and parameters. (MindaViews is the opinion section of MindaNews. PeaceTalk is open to anyone who wants to share his/her thoughts on the peace proces. Judge Soliman M. Santos, Jr. has written several books on the Bangsamoro peace process).