8th of a series
GENERAL SANTOS CITY (MindaNews/16 November) This did not mean that Draft BBL was perfect – without errors and “questionables”. But the Congress, in keeping with inter-branch courtesy, should not have arrogated unto itself the power to reverse the constitutionality and legality of Draft BBL as ensured by the Office of the President and the legal authorities of the Executive Department. In matters of constitutional and legal controversies, the opinion of the Legislative is as good as that of the Executive; the Supreme Court of the Judiciary is the final arbiter.
In keeping with inter-branch courtesy, the constitutional and legal defects of Draft BBL seen by the legislators should have been the subject of clarification at the committee hearings in the Senate and the House. The Office of the President together with those who helped review, revise and refine Draft BBL should have been invited to clarify. The clarified version of Draft BBL should have been passed subject to the final judgement of the Supreme Court should the constitutionality and legality of BBL be challenged.
But the contrary was done. The committee chairs and members heeded the opinions of anti-BBL resource persons that sustained their objections, doubts, biases, prejudices and fears. The findings and opinions of special study groups and the surviving members of the 1987 Constitutional Commission that Draft BBL was in keeping with the intentions of the Constitution were ignored. At the Senate, the Committee Chair, to sustain his charge that the stakeholders had not been consulted, rejected the report of the GPH peace panel showing otherwise – three years of extensive and comprehensive consultations.
In short, Draft BBL was viewed as full of “objectionables” then sustained with hostile opinions at the committee hearings. Draft BBL was deemed not the solution to the Moro Problem contrary to the conclusions of Government and MILF after their comprehensive, diligent, frank, and contentious discussions of the Problem; so, the committees changed BBL to BLBAR arbitrarily. Arrogance instead of inter-branch courtesy prevailed.
The Ultimate Option
The ultimate option is Draft BBL with all the “objectionables” enhanced as BEL through convergence subject to the intervention of the Supreme Court. With due respect to the President, this, not BEL minus the “objectionables”, will establish the Bangsamoro that will solve the centuries-old Moro Problem or Question. The Duterte must-option will only retain ARMM re-named Bangsamoro.
The “objectionables” will not be swept under the rug. After the inter-branch clarification at the congressional committee level, these will be retained in the BEL bill. However, the Supreme Court can be asked for final arbitration before or after the enactment of BEL.
Right now, there is a petition against the CAB pending at the Supreme Court filed by the Philippine Constitutional Association. The Court should be asked to hasten its decision on the case as the basis of the 17th Congress for the inclusion in or exclusion from the BEL of the “objectionables”. Or, if not premature, the clarification at the committee level can be challenged at the Supreme Court.
After its enactment, the BEL can be challenged at the Supreme Court. Provisions which the Court would rule as unconstitutional, contrary to law, against national interests, or seriously flawed on other grounds will be expunged from the BEL.
We think the ultimate option is more CAB-friendly than the must-option.
NEXT: Part IV. BEL: Roadmap and Road Blocks
[Author’s Note: Parts I, II and III of this article were written before the issuance by President Duterte of Executive Order No. 08 on November 7, 2016 mandating the BTC “to draft the proposed Bangsamoro Basic Law …” or BBL. EO No. 08 only amended EO No. 120, s. 2012 as amended by EO No. 187, s. 2015 of President Aquino III and did not change “BBL” to “BEL” (Bangsamoro Enabling Law). Secretary Dureza in his media interviews, as well the President in his public statements, had said that “BBL” would be “junked” and replaced with a new enabling law according to Duterte’s Bangsamoro Peace and Development Roadmap (BPDR). In digressing from BPDR, EO No. 08 has possible worrisome impact on the implementation of the peace agreements. We will discuss this in Part IV that will follow shortly. – PPD]