THE Philippine Ambassadors’ Foundation Inc. (PAFI) supports the objectives of the draft Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) of promoting peace and development in Southern Philippines. These goals cannot be achieved without national reconciliation and, evidently, a key to achieving harmony and unity is education.
The heart of the draft BBL is found in its Article V on Powers of Government (including Education) which treats them under three categories. The first category refers to the Reserved Powers, which the BBL defines as those matters over which jurisdiction is retained by the National Government and which the BBL then proceeds to list as nine powers. This formulation provokes the question whether this list is exhaustive. Such interpretation would be contrary to the Constitution because it provides that the National Government retains all the powers not devolved to the local governments. Congress should therefore insert a statement that this list is not exhaustive, also because the concept of Reserved Powers envisions an indefinite list.
The other Powers of Government are divided into 2) Concurrent powers defined as those shared between the Central government and the Bangsamoro government; and 3) Exclusive Powers or matters over which jurisdiction shall pertain to the Bangsamoro government, including Education.
The Exclusive Powers given to the Bangsamoro also provokes controversy. Under the Constitution, Education is one of the nine legislative powers to be devolved to the autonomous regions by their organic act. But it is doubtful that the Bangsmoro can have exclusive legislative powers on these matters, particularly with respect to Education. The Constitution expressly provides in its Article X that the devolution of these legislative powers to the autonomous regions is subject to the provisions of the Constitution and national laws.
Accordingly, the Constitution has vested the legislative powers in the Congress of the Philippines and has given Congress the responsibility of giving life to certain provisions of the Constitution. Among them is Article XIV of the Constitution on Education, etc. which provides, inter alia, the following:
“Section 3: (1) All educational institutions shall include the study of the Constitution as part of the Curricula;
(2) They shall inculcate patriotism and nationalism, foster love of humanity, respect for human rights, appreciation of the role of national heroes in the historical development of the country, teach the rights and duties of citizenship …”
Enacting the laws to activate these provisions of the Constitution on education should go a long way to achieving national reconciliation and unity. On the other hand, it may be noted that the Bangsamoro Basic Law(Article IX on the Right to Education) is silent on the ideals of nationalism and expresses only the needs, ideals and aspirations of the Bangsamoro as may be seen below:
Article IX of Section 13. Integrated System of Quality Education: The Bangsamoro Government shall establish, maintain, and support, as a top priority, a complete and integrated system of quality education and adopt an educational framework that is relevant, and responsive to the needs, ideals, and aspirations of the Bangsamoro.
The experience of Catalonia, whose government leaders now seek independence from Spain, should be instructive on the importance of education on nation-building.
Over the past 40 years, the youths of Catalonia were instructed in the Catalan language and the glory of Catalonia, prompting the Spanish President, Mariano Rajoy, to remark that the Catalans need to be taught to be not only good Catalans but also good Spaniards.
The Bangsamoro may exercise exclusive executive powers with respect to many of the laws covered under this category. In examining the draft BBL bill before passing it to Congress, the Office of the President made sure that the BBL contains the provision that “The President shall exercise general supervision over the Bangsamoro government to ensure laws are faithfully executed. “ The BBL also creates a “Central Government – Bangsamoro Government Intergovernmental Relations Body” to resolve issues on intergovernmental relations. Unresolved issues shall be elevated to the President through the Chief Minister of the Bangsamoro government.
In contrast, although the BBL provides for the creation of the Philippine Congress – Bangsamoro Parliament Forum, this is only “for the purposes of cooperation and coordination of legislative initiatives.” There is no corresponding provision in the BBL akin to the President’s that safeguards the supremacy of Congress as the constitutional body vested with legislative power under Article VI although Congress’ legislative powers over the autonomous region is subject to the principle of subsidiarity. The provisions of BBL on Exclusive Powers have placed Congress in a very awkward and inferior situation vis-a- vis the President’s.
The task before Congress now is to ensure that it is not seen to abdicate its power, as it cannot, and to ensure that the BBL it passes is rid of constitutional infirmities. The amendments should include a provision that the exercise of certain legislative powers by the Bangsamoro is subject to the Constitution and national laws as stated in the Constitution.
Moreover, Congress should note that the BBL also suffers from projecting a negative imagery of grievances combined with a total silence for national reconciliation and unity. The BBL sounds like a call to its inhabitants to be good Bangsamoro and nothing more. Congress should encourage the two panels defending the draft BBL to include provisions in the BBL that will dispel this impression.
(Ambassador Jaime S. Bautista is Secretary General of Philippine Ambassadors’ Foundation Inc (PAFI) and Professor of Law at Ateneo de Manila Law School and Philippine Christian University. The views expressed are his and not necessarily PAFI’s.)