MOA-AD foes on the BBL: Unconstitutional

ILIGAN CITY (MindaNews/29 November) – They have spoken.

Three politicians who led the opposition to the botched Memorandum of Agreement on Ancestral Domain or MOA-AD have made known their stand against the proposed Bangsamoro Basic Law, which aims to conclude the on-and-off peace process between government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF).

In a public hearing here Friday by the House ad hoc committee on the BBL, Zamboanga City Rep. Celso Lobregat and former Iligan Mayor Lawrence Cruz said the BBL contains provisions that are unconstitutional.

“Like the MOAD-AD in 2008, the proposed Bangsamoro Law is full of unconstitionalities [sic],” Cruz said referring to the failed agreement which the Supreme Court junked as unconstitutional in 2008.

“What will happen now if the Supreme Court will find again the proposed Bangsamoro as unconstitutional? Will the MILF go to war again?” he added.

Some units of the MILF launched attacks in parts of Lanao and Cotabato area after the Supreme Court declared the MOA-AD as unconstitutional.

Cruz said he was questioning the “sticky issues” which could possibly be declared as unconstitutional namely the provisions on exclusive jurisdiction, water resources and disarmament of the MILF.

“Everything is being lost in the technical mumbo jumbo. What will happen if the High Court finds the proposed law as unconstitutional,” he said.

But Cruz said he will not file a case before the Supreme Court questioning the proposed law. “I am afraid for the city of Iligan. We learned our lessons in 2008 when the city was attacked after we led the opposition.”

For his part, Lobregat pointed out some provisions of the draft law like the block grant for the Bangsamoro government that he claimed is unconstitutional.

Lobregat, however, conceded that since the 15th Congress is dominated by allies of President Aquino it will pass the BBL despite its “unconstitutionality”.

“They (Aquino allies) have the numbers. The law will surely be passed but it will face a wave of constitutionality cases in the Supreme Court,” Lobregat said.

The Bangsamoro is envisioned to replace the 25-year old Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao by 2016.

Lobregat and Cruz led the opposition to the MOA-AD in 2008 by questioning its constitutionality before the High Court.

After the Supreme Court ruled in favor of the petition against the MOAD-AD, war erupted anew when elements of the MILF who were angered by the decision staged attacks in Lanao and Cotabato areas.

Councilor Moises Dalisay, one of those who petitioned against the MOAD-AD in the Supreme Court, questioned the inclusion of some areas in the proposed Bangsamoro region.

He said the Constitution does not allow any province, city, town and barangay to be divided, merged with or its boundary altered without conforming to the Local Government Code of 1991, which also prohibits this exercise.

“This provision is applicable to Iligan City where eight barangays are classified to participate in the plebiscite,” he said.

Muntinlupa City Rep. Rodolfo Biazon (Lone District, Mandaluyong City), a member of the House committee, told Lobregat, Cruz and Dalisay that ensuring that the proposed BBL pass constitutional scrutiny is the job of the 15th Congress.

Biazon said it is also the job of the committee to reconcile the conflicting issues facing the bill.

“Our job is to see this law pass scrutiny because I am sure somebody or some group will raise this question before the high court once Congress will pass it,” he said.

Biazon said the worst thing that could happen is another war if the Supreme Court decides to rule against the BBL like it did to the MOAD-AD.

“The condition of unpeace has become a disease in this country. We cannot go back to it and that is the reason we must find some compromised to the conflicting issues,” Biazon, a former Marines general who became chief of staff of the Armed Forces of the Philippines, said. (Froilan Gallardo/MindaNews)