Sabah must be mentioned in the BBL

INTERVIEWED lengthily by Ted Failon yesterday morning (on ABSCBN/DZMM’s Teleradyo), the Chairwoman of the Philippine government panel negotiating–the better word is “colluding”– with the Moro Islamic Liberation to create the Bangsamoro substate, spoke like a tape-recorder incessantly claiming that the Palace-backed draft of the Bangsamoro Basic Law pending in both houses of Congress conforms to our Constitution. She kept on insisting that her and President B.S. Aquino’s desired BBL can exist without the need of amending our Constitution.

Her words fatally carry the impure notes of falsehood. Unlike her claim, the words of better experts than her, Filipinos moved by patriotism like former Supreme Court Justices Vicente Mendoza and Florentino Feliciano, former senator Aquilino Pimentel Jr. (who authored our country’s Local Government Code), and Senator Miriam Defensor-Santiago, ring true.

They all see the serious violations of the Constitution in the Palace-proposed BBL (which our Columnist Francisco S. Tatad nicknames “Babala,” the Tagalog word for “warning”).

Among the fatal flaws they see is that the substate or autonomous region Bangsamoro (which means Moro nation, Moro state or Moro country) as designed in the Palace-certified BBL, does not fall under any of the types of local government units authorized by the Constitution. Therefore the Constitution must be amended to allow such a new form of local government as the parliamentary form of government that BBL grants the Bangsamoro substate to exist within our presidential form of government. Indeed, the Bangsamoro is more like a state of the Malaysian Federation rather than a region or province of the Philippines.

This is not surprising. For the MILF is virtually sponsored by Malaysia. Malaysia “graciously” agreed to broker the peace talks between its client, the MILF, and the Philippine government because it could thereby help ensure continued Philippine government silence over Malaysia’s takeover of Sabah. Sabah is Philippine territory by virtue of its being part of the Sultanate of Sulu and North Borneo. The Sultans are citizens of the Philippines. A now departed Sultan of Sulu and North Borneo formally assigned the Sultanate’s sovereignty to the Republic of the Philippines. Therefore Sabah is the property of the Sultanate as well as of the Philippine Republic.

Former senator Aquilino Pimentel Jr. presented an excellent paper to the Senate Committee on Local Government last Monday. It is titled “Comments on the Bangsamoro Basic Law” and has the byline “By Nene Pimentel of the Pimentel Institute of Leadership & Governance.”

It covers all the unconstitutional and other objectionable items in the Malacañang and Coronel-Ferrer proposed Babala.

It ends with the following paragraphs dealing with the Sabah issue and the concerns of the Sultanate of Sulu and North Borneo.

“As final points, we bring to the attention of the Committee two relevant issues: (1) the apprehension of His Excellency, the Sultan of Sulu, that in his view, the BBL does not clearly state whether or not the traditional jurisdiction of the Sultanate of Sulu over the Sulu Sea is recognized by the BBL; and (2) whether or not the Sultanate’s claim over Sabah is simply not a priority of the administration? Some members of the House of Representatives have already spoken out against the inclusion of the Sabah claim on the ground that it might only unduly prolong the implementation of the BBL. Maybe, they are right. But, the Sabah claim is well-documented, and the sooner it is tackled by the government, the better it will be for the nation.”

We agree with former senator Pimentel. More than that we fault the Aquino administration and past administrations, from that of the late President Corazon Aquino, for having been silent about the Sabah issue and the rights of the Sultan of Sulu and North Borneo over Sabah.

We object to the use of the term “claim” in referring to the Philippines and the Sultanate’s ownership of Sabah. The correct term to use is “rights to Sabah”–for legally and morally Sabah belongs to the Sultanate and the Philippine Republic.