DAVAO CITY (MindaNews/19 June) — A group that includes the Zamboanga Archbishop and a retired archbishop of Davao City filed with the Supreme Court on Friday a petition to declare unconstitutional the peace agreements signed by the Philippine government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF).
In a 26-page petition, the Philippine Constitution Association (Philconsa) — headed by Leyte Rep. Ferdinand Martin Romualdez and former Senator Francisco “Kit” Tatad – asked the Supreme Court to declare unconstitutional the Framework Agreement on the Bangsamoro (FAB) and the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro (CAB), GMA News online reported.
The news site’s website posted a photograph of the petitioners holding copies of the petition: Norberto Gonzales, former National Security Adviser and Defense Secretary under the Arroyo administration; Zamboanga Archbishop Romulo dela Cruz; PhilConsa president and Leyte Rep. Ferdinand Martin Romualdez; former Senator Francisco “Kit” Tatad of Phlilconsa; Davao City’s Archbishop Emeritus Fernando Capalla; and former Justice Manuel Lazaro.
The report said Lipa Archbishop Ramon Arguelles, is also among the petitioners.
Gonzales and the archbishops are members of the National Transformation Council (NTC) which called on President Aquino to step down after the January 25 tragedy in Mamasapano.
The report said petitioners also asked the high tribunal to stop the Budget Department from releasing funds to pursue or implement the FAB, the CAB; and the draft Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) which is still under deliberation in the two houses of Congress.
The FAB was signed on October 15, 2012 by then government peace panel chair Marvic Leonen (now Supreme Court Associate Justice) and MILF chair Mohagher Iqbal while the CAB was signed on March 27, 2014 by government peace panel chair Miriam Coronel-Ferrer and the MILF’s Iqbal.
In a statement sent to MindaNews, Ferrer said they “reserve comment on its merits until we get a copy.”
But Ferrer reiterated their conviction that “bringing to life social justice and meaningful autonomy as mandated in the 1987 Philippine Constitution is at the heart of the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro. “
Ferrer said she is saddened that some groups and individuals “continue to mount road blocks to our forward march to peace and development in Mindanao, a right that belongs to all Filipinos.”
She noted that despite the delay in passing the Bangsamoro Basic Law, the MILF is staying on the peace track.
Last Tuesday, President Aquino witnessed the ceremonial decommissioning of 75 high powered and crew-served weapons and 145 combatants.
“We will not lose this historic momentum to silence the guns in the Bangsamoro through democratic reform that would strengthen our commitment to a shared destiny as one peaceful and progressive country,” Ferrer said.
Iqbal told MindaNews: “Why only now and the people behind (the petition) are close to the Marcoses and GMA (former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo).”
GMA News online said the petitioners alleged that Leonen as GPH panel chair who negotiated the FAB, “agreed and granted unimaginable social, economic, political, and financial benefits to the MILF which the Executive Department may not legally grant without the concurrence of the legislative or the judicial department, or without first amending the 1987 Constitution.”
The report said the petitioners also alleged that the conduct of the peace process was flawed because it did not include the Moro National Liberation and the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters.
They also said the Aquino administration did not follow Executive Order125 which defines the approach and administrative structure for the government’s peace efforts, a panel of advisers consisting of three members – one each from the Senate, House of Representatives and the Cabinet – should participate in the negotiations, something which was not done according to the petitioners.
The petitioners alleged Leonen and Ferrer usurped a power they did not have when they committed to cause the amendment of the 1987 Philippine Constitution and existing laws to conform with the FAB and CAB.
Leonen and Ferrer had repeatedly said there was no need to amend the Constitution as the Bangamoro, the new autonomous political entity that both government and the MILF had agreed to, can be set up “within the flexibilities of the 1987 Constitution.”
The 1987 Constitution specifically provides for autonomous region in Muslim Mindanao and the Cordilleras.
Status in Congress
GMA News online quoted a portion of the petition that said the draft BBL was a “specific potion being dispensed by the quack doctor,” that it is a potent extract from the poisonous roots FAB and CAB nourished by the (GPH) and MILF panels.”
The petitioners said only the first post-EDSA Congress that was authorized by the Constitution to create autonomous regions in Muslim Mindanao and the Cordilleras.
Romualdez is the cousin of Sen. Ferdinand Marcos Jr., chair of the Senate committee on Local Government tackling the BBL.
Marcos had said in a privilege speech in early June that the BBL in its present form and substance would not bring peace but “lead us to perdition” and that he would file a substitute bill.
He vowed to submit the Committee report to the Senate before Congress resumes session on July 27, also the day when President Aquino delivers his sixth and last State of the Nation Address.
In the House of Representatives, the Ad Hoc Committee on the Bangsamoro Basic Law (AHCBBL) approved its substitute bill on May 20. The period of interpellation began on June 2 but was suspended evening of June 10, before Congress adjourned sine die. (MindaNews)