MIND DA NEWS: Don’t Dismiss the Petitions

GENERAL SANTOS CITY (MindNews/28 June) — The petitions of the Philconsa (Philippine Constitution Association) and Jacinto Paras, former congressman from Negros Oriental, to declare unconstitutional, illegal and void the Framework Agreement on Bangsamoro (FAB), its Annexes and the Comprehensive Agreement on Bangsamoro (CAB) have not yet been given due course by the Supreme Court and may still be dismissed (Philippine Star, June 27, 2015: Petitions vs Bangsamoro deal may still be dismissed).

According to Supreme Court spokesman Theodore Te, the Court’s decision to hear or dismiss the petitions depends on the comments of the respondents — chief peace negotiator Miriam Coronel-Ferrer, Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) peace panel head Mohagher Iqbal, Budget Secretary Florencio Abad and the Commission on Audit.

Supreme Court Associate Justice Marvic Leonen, the first chairman of the Philippine negotiating panel under the Aquino government, was named a respondent for signing the FAB. However, he would not be required to comment on the petitions contrary to an earlier report. He has inhibited himself from the cases.

Should the Court give the petitions due course, Leonen must do more than just inhibiting himself. He must file a leave during the pendency of the case to fully defend his action. If the FAB is declared unconstitutional, he must resign. Violation of the constitution is an indelible and an intolerable blot in the records of a Supreme Court justice.

The FAB, the Annexes and the CAB are not implementable. Unless enacted into a law, what they allegedly will do to the country and the Filipino people is harmless. It is the Basic Bangsamo Law, the organic law to establish the Bangsamoro now pending in the Congress, that will implement them. Can this be considered a technicality for the dismissal of the petitions? There can be some other probable technicalities. Can insincerity of the petitioners be among these?

To the point: Norberto Gonzales, one of the petitioners, was a member of the cabinet of President Arroyo. The Cabinet asked Libya’s President Muammar Khaddafy to host the GRP-MILF meeting for the resumption of the peace talks in 2001 leading to the signing of the 2001Tripoli Agreement, the framework of the negotiation. Gonzales arranged the meeting of President Arroyo and Malaysia’s Prime Minister Badawi to reopen the peace talks in 2009. Yet, the Petition questions the holding of the talks in Kuala Lumpur.

From the Philconsa petition, it can be discerned that the real motive of the petitioners is to abort House Bill No. 5811, the revised version of HB 4994 adopting Draft BBL that will establish Bangsamoro according to the FAB and the Annexes. Rep. Ferdinand Martin G. Romualdez, the Philconsa president and lead petitioner, is the leader of the opposition bloc in the House of Representatives against the BBL. The shortest way to defeat BBL is to have the Court void its source on grounds of unconstitutionality.

The Court must hear the petitions on merit, disregarding all probable technicalities. This is a rare opportunity for the Court 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 Constitutions 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.

Re-“(1)”: National sovereignty is essentially the reason for questioning the holding of the Philippine Government-Moro Islamic Liberation Front negotiations in Kuala Lumpur with Malaysia as the facilitator and the involvement of international groups. But all previous peace negotiations with the Moro National Liberation Front were held abroad with the participation of the Organization of Islamic Conference (now “Cooperation”).

National sovereignty is essentially the reason for the objections to the grant of autonomous powers to the Moros and concessions for the autonomy to be meaningful and stable. But these are based on Sections 15 to 21 of Article X.

Territorial integrity is essentially the reason for questioning provisions in Draft BBL pertinent to the establishment of Bangsamoro and its territorial or political composition. Of special concern are Section 18 of Article X in relation to Section 1 and Section 19 in relation to the proposed abolition of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao to be replaced by the Bangsamoro.

Re-“(2)”: Evidently, the Government and MILF vouch for the constitutionality of Draft BBL, faithfully crafted from the FAB and the Annexes, based on Sections 15 to 21 of Article X. The Congress and other BBL assail its constitutionality citing other provisions of the 1987 Constitution and certain national laws.

Re-“(3)”: The Philconsa petitioners cite the MOA-AD Decision and the concurring decisions of the Justices to support their arguments. But, obviously, opponents of BBL are citing the MOA-AD Decision for their convenience. In agreeing on July 29, 2008 to resume the peace talks and in fleshing this out in the following December, the GRP-MILF panels must have heeded the Court’s suggestion to renegotiate the MOA-AD and its assurance of the President’s role and authority in negotiating peace with the rebels.

The Government, MILF and their supporters should welcome the petitions. They should urge the Supreme Court to hear the case — inviting intervenors and friends of the court and finishing it before the Congress opens its Third Regular Session in the last week of July. They should challenge the Congress to restore the provisions of Draft BBL it has deleted should the Court uphold the constitutionality and legality of the FAB, the Annexes and the CAB.

[Author’s Note: Mind da News, the alternate of COMMENT, is a comment on current news. The author may be contacted at patponcediaz@yahoo.com.]