PRESIDENT Benigno Aquino 3rd may find himself on a collision course with Congress and the Judiciary over the proposed Bangsamoro Basic Law, which contrary to the President’s view, may require amendments in the Constitution.
In separate interviews, government chief negotiator Miriam Coronel-Ferrer and former Chief Justice Reynato Puno, who voted against the implementation of the Memorandum of Agreement on Ancestral Domain (MOA-AD) in 2008, said the Transition Commission (TC) should immediately draft the proposed law to find out if it conforms with the Charter.
When the annex on power sharing was signed in December last year, the government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) panels agreed to allow the commission, headed by Mohaqher Iqbal, to recommend changes in the Charter.
On page 2, last paragraph of Part One (Intergovernmental Relations), the annex states that: “The Bangsamoro Transition Commission may also propose other modalities for Bangsamoro representation as part of its set of recommendations for constitutional amendments.”
According to Ferrer, while they are open to introducing amendments to the Charter, President Aquino is more inclined to support a new law rather than tinker with the Constitution.
“The aim is to pass the Bangsamoro Basic Law as soon as possible so that the new Bangsamoro government can be put in place. The Transition Commission may recommend constitutional amendments for the future . . . any Filipino citizen may do so,” she told The Manila Times.
“However, the President has committed to support new legislation, not Cha-cha, to be passed during his term,” Ferrer said.
Puno raised the possibility of the Bangsamoro Basic Law facing a “constitutional challenge” if it will contain provisions similar to what were included in the defunct memorandum on ancestral domain.
Asked what the framers of the Basic Law should avoid to prevent a repeat of the MOA-AD debacle, Puno replied: “Granting not only autonomous but substate powers to MILF without first amending the Constitution.”
“We have to [know the]details of proposals and agreements. Without them, all will be guesswork. The earlier the better to minimize constitutional challenge,” Puno told The Times.
At the sidelines of the Ten Outstanding Filipinos Awards in Muntinlupa City on Wednesday, Aquino maintained that only those who have “incomplete information” on the issue are likely to experience “fear of the unknown.”
“Well, of course when it reaches Congress we will be a bit worried or maybe we should appeal that we should not be alarmed. Maybe there are those who have incomplete information and have what we call the fear of the unknown,” the President told reporters.
But Aquino said the Transition Commission must promptly prepare the draft of the measure so it could be checked against the Constitution.
“We tried our best since the beginning to make everything that was discussed to be transparent so that nobody would be surprised,” he said.
He admitted that there is, in fact, a provision in the signed annex on power sharing that allows Charter amendments only “when needed.”
“It does not mean that we are committed to changing the Constitution.
But the Constitution itself provides for means on how to effect amendments which can be proposed by anyone,” the President pointed out.
“We hope to see all recommendations of the Transition Commission and study each detail to find out if there is anything contrary to the Constitution. And if there is, I will be the first to be surprised because since the start, the framework should be in accordance with the Constitution so that we can immediately implement what was agreed upon,” Aquino added.