The Malacañang-backed Citizens Peace Council is convinced that the proposed Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) should not be passed as it is, noting that some provisions in the draft measure need to undergo refinements.
Retired Chief Justice Hilario Davide Jr., a member of the peace council, made this statement at the resumption of the public hearing on Tuesday of the Senate Committee on Local Government.
Davide was responding to a question of Sen. Francis Escudero about the constitutionality of the BBL and if the proposed measure could be passed in its present form.
“Unless we do something about these areas of concern and some refinements would be done, then the constitutional issue will remain,” the head of the council’s cluster on the BBL’s constitutionality told the Senate panel.
Davide, a member of the 1986 Constitutional Commission that drafted the existing Constitution, however, made it clear that the council only found few provisions in the BBL that are perceived unconstitutional.
He said it is not right to declare the whole BBL unconstitutional just because of questionable provisions.
Members of the peace council formally submitted its findings on the proposed BBL to the Senate on Tuesday before they faced the Senate local government committee.
The council identified seven provisions in the BBL that need refinements including portions under the parliamentary form of government; intergovernmental Relations between Central Government and Bangsamoro Government; principle of subsidiarity versus principle of solidarity; asymmetric relationship; grant to the Bangsamoro Government of the authority, power and right to explore, develop and utilize the natural resources within its territorial jurisdiction; fiscal autonomy provisions; and the BBL justice system.
On its recommendation,the council suggested changes in the terms used in the provisions to avoid confusion and misinterpretation of the law.
The council cited Article IV, Section 2, of the BBL which states that the Bangsamoro Government shall be parliamentary. In Section 3 of the same article, however, the BBL uses the term, “ministerial form of government.”
“To avoid any confusion and possible misinterpretation, it is recommended that the term ‘ministerial’ be dropped, and replaced with ‘parliamentary’ for consistency and clarity,” the council stated.
Also, to remove misunderstanding on the grant of exclusive powers to the Bangsamoro Government, the council suggested that the title on exclusive powers provided in Section 3 be amended as “Exclusive and Devolved Powers to emphasize that the source of this exclusivity is devolution of powers.”
Concerns about the BBL as a step toward secession was also discussed during the hearing and the council noted that the best protection against secession and extremism is the Constitution.
Former Education Secretary Edilberto de Jesus, who heads the public order and safety cluster, said the guarantee against secession is to pass the BBL and to work together in order not to give the Bangsamoro a reason to secede.
“The best assurance against secession and extremism is not in the text of the BBL but in the implementation and in giving genuine autonomy a chance,” he added.
The council in its report also noted that by engaging in a peace process, it will become difficult for the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) to gain international recognition, a necessary requirement to gain full sovereignty, if it attempts to secede.
“By signing agreements with the government, the MILF has bound itself to the process,” it said.
On concerns about a separate Bangsamoro army and police, the council raised the importance of emphasizing that the Bangsamoro police force is part of the Philippine National Police and that the Bangsamoro Command is under the direct supervision of the Armed Forces.
“The BBL should be understood for what it really is, an instrument to pursue social justice and development, for the constituents of the autonomous region, for the entire Mindanao, and for the country in general,” it said.
Senator Ferdinand Marcos Jr. said the findings of the council would help advance the process on the passage of the BBL since they confirmed the position of Congress on deficiencies on the draft law.
“It will advance the discussion. Because now we understand that the deficiencies, as we have seen them, the problem, as we have seen them, are also recognized not only by the members of the two houses of Congress and some other commentators, but also by the peace council,” Marcos added.
He cited a suggestion of the Davide regarding constitutional issues on the BBL, saying it is very encouraging for the Senate to have a former Chief Justice agree with them on the issue.
The senator, however, admitted that the committee cannot commit to a timetable set by leaders of Congress, noting that everything will depend on the outcome of the remaining committee hearings.
According to Marcos, the last BBL hearing was tentatively scheduled for May 25, but before that the committee needs to conduct hearings in Zamboanga and Jolo, Sulu.
Congress plans to pass the BBL by June 11 or before the adjournment of the second regular session of the 16th Congress.