FORMER Chief Justice Hilario Davide Jr. has urged lawmakers who are against the Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL), a landmark legislation that promises to bring lasting peace in Muslim Mindanao, to help find solutions to end the armed conflict in southern Philippines by passing a law that is constitutional, fair, and inclusive.
Some lawmakers earlier withdrew their support for the proposed BBL following the massacre of 44 elite police commandos in a bloody police operation in Mamasapano, Maguindanao last January 25.
With this incident, the BBL deliberations in Congress have been suspended as some lawmakers doubted the sincerity of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) in pushing for the peace process. Other lawmakers, on the other hand, questioned the constitutionality of some BBL provisions.
“Legislators opposed to the BBL, find a way that this could be really constitutional all throughout in all the sections. Find a way, it can easily be done!” Davide, co-convenor of Peace Council composed of “citizen leaders” tasked to independently scrutinize the controversial law, dared members of the upper and lower house of Congress as he spoke before an audience of about 100 participants from various sectors during the first public forum on the BBL on Thursday at Luxent Hotel in Quezon City.
“If there is anything unconstitutional in the provisions, find out a way to resolve that [contentious]issue,” the former chief justice added.
On March 27, 2015, during the anniversary of the signing of the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro (CAB), President Benigno Aquino 3rd tapped Davide, Manila Archbishop Luis Antonio Tagle, businessman Jaime Augusto Zobel de Ayala, civil society leader Howard Dee, and peace advocate Bai Rohaniza Sumndad-Usman as convenors of the Peace Council to review the BBL.
The BBL, a product of the peace agreement signed by the government and Moro Islamic Liberation Front in 2014, seeks to formalize the creation of a new political entity that will replace the existing Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM).
The Council said it already presented its report on the BBL to Cagayan de Oro Rep. Rufus Rodriguez, chair of the House ad hoc committee on the BBL, and Sen. Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos, chair of the Senate committee on local government.
The report provides a clear picture of what the Bangsamoro bill is, and how it would help change the lives of millions of people in Mindanao, including the non-Muslims and indigenous peoples.
The Council, in its report, argued that the BBL should not be seen as merely a matter of division of powers, resources and responsibilities, between a national government and an autonomous region, but should be understood for what it really is, and instrument to pursue social justice and development, for the constituents of the autonomous region, for the entire Mindanao, and for the country in general.
“Our report recommends what articles, for instance, or sections should be modified in order to find a consensus,” Davide noted.
The former chief justice also expressed confidence that the Supreme Court justices will give utmost priority for the final determination of the issue.
“I’m sure the Supreme Court will give utmost priority. That is really what I firmly believe because of the significance of the law itself, and the necessity of an immediate implementation,” Davide said.
Marlon Manuel, national coordinator of Alternative Law Groups (ALG) and member of the Peace Council, said the report will give proper information and would clarify issues hounding the Bangsamoro bill.
ALG is a coalition of 23 legal resource non-government organizations that adheres to the principles and values of alternative or developmental law.
“This is the first time that we presented the report to the group of citizens, stakeholders, mostly from non-government organizations and from schools. This is very significant because this is the first time that the council is coming out to disseminate the information about the findings of the Peace Council,” Manuel told this reporter in an interview.