Sweeping and contradictory

Published by rudy Date posted on May 8, 2015

The report of the National Peace Council formed by Aquino III to review the Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) definitely shows that it was formed merely to ensure the passage by Congress of said document as demanded by the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF). It is really quite disturbing and ironic that for the purpose of supposedly achieving peace in Mindanao, distinguished and respected citizens of this country including Church luminaries, wittingly or unwittingly agreed to be part of this administration’s single minded determination to satisfy the demands of the MILF which are the “spoilers of peace” in that area.

The rush and the hush in the Council’s review and deliberation of the BBL already raise fear and doubt on the real purpose for its creation and the integrity of its report. While Congress itself takes several months or even years in studying a proposed law, it took the Councilors barely a month to come up with its report and sweepingly announce that the “draft BBL complies with the Constitution.”

A cursory examination of the report however readily shows that it raises more questions instead of providing answers and clarifications on some issues surrounding the BBL particularly on the issue of constitutionality, form and power of government. In this connection, the report even gave some general lessons in interpreting laws as if it is preempting and already ruling on the constitutionality of the proposed law which is the primary role and function of the Supreme Court. Specifically, the report says:

“Much of the confusion and concern about the constitutionality of the BBL can be resolved by applying one of the most basic rules of interpretation in Constitutional Law: that as the fundamental, paramount, and supreme law of the nation, the Constitution is deemed written in every statute and contract. As a rule of statutory construction, if there are provisions of a statute irreconcilable with the Constitution, the Constitution prevails. When reading the proposed Bangsamoro Basic Law, it is therefore presumed that all constitutional powers of government and the Constitutional Commissions and bodies remain intact, regardless of whether the law explicitly provides for it or not.”

Such kind of statement apparently shows that the Councilors have not fully read or understood the BBL before they came out with the report. For, if they have read the law, they would have already determined whether or not it explicitly provides that all constitutional powers of government and the constitutional commissions and bodies remain intact. Instead they just made another sweeping and general statement “there is neither a substitution nor diminution of powers intended or affected by the creation of Bangsamoro Human Rights, Auditing, Civil Service and Electoral Offices without specifying the reasons.

On the other hand, Congress have definitely found that there are provisions in the BBL that explicitly seek to create separate Commission on Audit (COA), Commission on Election (COMELEC), Civil Service Commission (CSC), Commission on Human Rights (CHR) and the Office of the Ombudsman (OMB). Congress says that these are unconstitutional since they will duplicate the functions and operations of the above enumerated independent constitutional commissions and therefore cannot be enacted into law.

Opinion ( Article MRec ), pagematch: 1, sectionmatch: 1

Other constitutionally questionable sections found by Congress are those requiring the President to coordinate military operations with the chief minister of the Bangsamoro region and empower such minister to have control and supervision over the police forces in the region. Congress says that such provisions would diminish the power of the presidency and give the Chief Minister authority over the policemen in the region. It would also run counter to the constitutional provision requiring one national police force, civilian in character and under the control of the National Police Commission.

On the other hand, the Council just made another sweeping statement in this regard and says that “there is no creation of a separate kind of citizen, and no creation, virtual or otherwise, of a political territory that is greater than the national government that creates it, or beyond the reach of the constitution that allows it without specifying the reason for such statement.

In the report, the Peace Council also declares that “The Constitution itself permits and implicitly contemplates what the draft Law would establish – a legal system in the Bangsamoro that is plural and particular in content, informed by universal norms of justice and human rights and all these are subject to the supremacy of the Constitution.” Yet it also recommends that Section 3 Article III and Section 4 Article XV of the BBL be deleted because it gives the option to the Bangsamoro government to increase its territory through periodic votes of 10 percent of the registered voters in the outer territories. The Council says that these provisions should be deleted because it amounts to a creation of an autonomous region and definition of its territory which is the function of Congress.

To create some semblance of credibility and thoroughness in its report, the Council even created four clusters to tackle four key issues on the BBL. Aside from the above issue on constitutionality, it also deliberated on the key issues of the economy and patrimony, social justice and human development as well as peace and order and human security. In all these three other key issues, the Council also found that the draft BBL “complies with the Constitution.” But in the issue of peace and order and human security, its findings seems to clash with the Congressional report about the supervision and control over the police force in the territory.

In sum it can be said that the council’s report has not clarified and settled the controversies surrounding the BBL because it is too sweeping and sometimes contradictory. –Jose C. Sison (The Philippine Star)

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Email: attyjosesison@gmail.com

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