• Bangsamoro draft less legally ‘objectionable’

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    THE new leadership of the Bangsamoro Transition Commission (BTC) is confident that its version of the proposed Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) will get Congress’ approval since it already addressed the “objectionable features” of the first draft crafted during the Aquino administration.

    Senate President Aquilino Pimentel 3rd made the remark on Tuesday when asked about the prospects of the new BBL draft getting the approval of the 17th Congress.

    The 16th Congress was not able to pass it because of many constitutional issues.

    “I have talked with a member of the Bangsamoro Transition Commission who is a lawyer and he told me that they addressed all those objectionable features of the first draft,” Pimentel told reporters.

    He, however, did not identify the BTC official he talked to.

    The BTC, composed of representatives of the government, the Moro Islamic Liberation Front and the Moro National Liberation Front, is set to submit the BBL draft to President Rodrigo Duterte on July 17 in Malacañang.

    Pimentel said he believes that Duterte will certify it as urgent to prompt Congress to expedite its passage.

    “The person I talked to who is confident that this time, this version is less constitutionally objectionable. Let’s see because I haven’t seen the draft yet. It will be submitted to the President on the 17th. I want to be there when it is submitted,” he added.

    Some concerned quarters claim that the BBL submitted to the 16th Congress will create a “separate State.”

    The opt-in provision was also a reasons why it was not approved.

    Failed reconciliation
    It states that barangay (villages), contiguous to the proposed core Bangsamoro territories, can join the Bangsamoro government through a plebiscite.

    The late Sen. Miriam Defensor-Santiago, then head of the Senate Committee on Constitutional Amendments, Revision of Codes and Laws, conducted public hearings on the BBL.

    She released her panel report in May 2015 that stated, among others, that the amendments that the House of Representatives’ ad hoc committee introduced in its version of the draft BBL “failed to reconcile” it with the Constitution, specifically on issues of sovereignty, autonomy, creation of a sub-state and territorial integrity.

    Santiago noted this point in her 27-page report on the legality of the measure, which is also aimed at abolishing the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao.

    She questioned the enumeration of powers in the House’s BBL draft.

    The House panel retained three types: reserved powers reside only with the national government; concurrent powers are shared; and exclusive powers rest solely with the Bangsamoro government.

    The concept of “concurrent powers” and “exclusive powers” tear asunder the supreme authority possessed by the sovereignty of the people because these will make the Bangsamoro government co-equal with the national government, and thus a sub-state, Santiagosaid.

    Santiago particularly opposed the extensive taxing and revenue-raising powers that the BBL would give the Bangsamoro government.

    Effectively, the Bangsamoro government will have seceded from, yet remain financially supported by, the Philippine government, she said.

    The provision granting the Bangsamoro exclusive powers and use of natural resources found in the area also drew Santiago’s criticism.

    In constitutional language, nothing of value may be exclusively allocated to any territorial part of the Philippine archipelago, she said.

    Santiago argued that although the BBL purports to be an exercise in local autonomy, “it bursts its bounds and turns into a part-sovereign state or a sub-state.”

    The term “Bangsamoro territory” implies that although it is under the jurisdiction of the Philippines, it is a separate part, she said.

    Santiago claimed that the Bangsamoro territory is highly similar to the Bangsamoro Juridical Entity (BJE), or the associative state, which the Supreme Court struck down in 2008 for posing the threat of territorial dismemberment.

    She urged BBL proponents to heed the Supreme Court, which found that the BJE “meets the criteria of a state laid down by the Montevideo Convention, namely, a permanent population, a defined territory, a government and a capacity to enter into relations with other states.”

    Former senator Ferdinand Marcos Jr., then chairman of the Senate Committee on Local Government, the primary panel tasked to tackle the BBL, also conducted public hearings on the BBL to give concerned stakeholders a chance to express their views on the proposed measure creating a Bangsamoro government in southern Philippines.

    BERNADETTE E. TAMAYO

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