RIVERMAN’S VISTA: A governance innovation in the Bangsamoro

2nd of a series

CAGAYAN DE ORO CITY (MindaNews / 10 Sept) — Article VII (Bangsamoro Government) of the Bangsamoro Organic  Law (BOL) outlines the government structure of the Bangsamoro Autonomous Government. The seat of government of the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region shall be determined by the Parliament taking into account accessibility and efficiency. The powers of the Bangsamoro Government is to be vested in the Parliament which shall set policies, legislate on matters within its authority, and elect the Chief Minister who shall serve as the chief executive.

Aside from being the head of the Bangsamoro Government, the Chief Minister has the power of appointment, to issue executive order, formulate a platform of government subject to the approval by the Parliament. He shall represent the Bangsamoro government in the affairs of the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region. The Chief Minister is a member of the Parliament, at least 25 years of age and a natural born citizen of the Philippines. He shall be elected on the first session day of the Parliament by a majority vote of all its members.

The Chief Minister shall nominate two (2) Deputy Ministers who shall be elected by the Parliament. However, executive power shall be exercised by the Cabinet headed by the Chief Minister. The presiding officer over the Parliament, who is either the Speaker or Deputy Speaker, is mandated to secure the honor of the Parliament, ensure the rights and privileges of its members, and assure public access to its proceedings.

The Parliament, aside from enacting laws, also has the power and authority to conduct inquiries in aid of legislation, enact laws to augment items in the general appropiration law, discipline its members, and be consulted in matters affecting the environment. It shall pass the annual appropriations law

The Parliament is to be composed of  eighty (80)  members, unless increased by the Congress of the Philippines. The seats in the Parliament are classfied into representatives of political parties which constitute one-half of its membership, forty percent (40%) coming from Parliamentary districts and the remaining ten (10%) percent are reserved seats and sectoral representatives. However, election of reserved seats for non-Moro indigenous peoples shall adhere to customary laws and indigenous processes.

The term of office for members of the Parliament, who are at least 25 years old, able to read and write and a registered voter of the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region, shall be three (3) years with a maximum limit of three (3) consecutive terms. Upon assumption, they are required to disclose their business and financial interests.  They are likewise prohibited from engaging in any business activity or any other activity that would be in conflict with their offficial functions. The prohibitions for national public officers under Republic Act 6713 or the Code of Conduct and Ethical Public Officers and Employees shall also be made applicable to the members of the Parliament.

In case of vacancy of a proportional representaion seat, the party to which that seat belongs shall fill the vacancy. If the vacancy belongs to an unaffiliated member occuring at least one year before the expiration of the term of office, there will be a special election conducted to fill up such vacancy.

Members shall also enjoy privilege from arrest when he commits an offense within the Bangsamoro Region punishable by not more than six (6) years imprisonment while Parliament is in session. No member of the Parliament shall be questioned or be held liable in any other place for any speech or debate in the Parliament or in any of its committees.

Upon a vote of no confidence of at least 2/3 of all the members of the Parliament against the Government of the day, the Chief Minister, within 72 hours of such vote shall inform the Wali to dissolve the Parliament and call for a new Parliamentary election. In no case shall the Wali countermand the advice of the Chief Minister.

Article VIII defines the office of theWaliwho is the ceremonial head of the Bangsamoro Government. Aside from other qualifications, the Wali must be a resident of the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region for at least fifteen (15) years. In selecting a Wali, the Parliament issues a resolution reflecting its consensus from a list submitted by the Council of Elders. The Wali shall only perform ceremonial duties such as the opening of the Parliament, among others. The Walimay be removed if he fails to dissolve the Parliament after a vote of no confidence; if he commits a crime involving moral turpitude; fails to perform the duties of a Wali; and such other grounds as the Parliament may provide.

This is the first time the Philippines will be experimenting with a parliamentary system of government at any level. This is good because in my view the presidential system (which emphasizes executive power) has not served the country well and we must try other forms.

Legally and constitutionally, a parliamentary system for an autonomous government can be justified because Article X of the Constitution only requires that there be a Legislative and Executive Branch and that they be elected. The office of the Chief Minister and the Bangsamoro Parliament are still distinct and the Chief Minister is an elected member of Parliament.

The proportional representation concept is embodied in the BOL. This is great as it will probably result in development and maturing of authentic political parties. It will also mean that governance will require coalitions of shared interests as no one group is expected to dominate. While I would have wanted an anti-dynasty provision, proportional representation would address some of the distortions dynasties cause.

Overall, I am excited with this governance innovation in the BOL. I am happy that the MILF introduced and insisted on the parliamentary system as the Bangsamoro’s form of government. I am confident that, after overcoming expected practical difficulties when you are shifting to a new sytem, they will be proven right and the new system will be good for the Bangsamoro and its people. (MindaViews is the opinion section of MindaNews. Tony La Viña of Cagayan de Oro City is former Dean and currently professor at Ateneo School of Government, as well as Constitutional Law professor of Xavier University, University of the Philippines College of Law, Polytechnic University of the Philippines College of Law, De La Salle University College of Law, San Beda Graduate School of Law, Lyceum College of Law and Pamantasan ng Lungsod ng Maynila Graduate School of Law. He was also a member of the government peace panel negotiating with the MILF from January to June 2010 following the aborted signing of the already initialed Memorandum of Agreement on Ancestral Domain in 2008).