THERE is a big chance that the Supreme Court (SC) may declare the proposed Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) unconstitutional because President Benigno Aquino 3rd has no authority to enter into a peace negotiation with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), Sen. Miriam Defensor-Santiago said on Thursday.
Santiago also sees as irrelevant moves by Malacañang or Congress to set a time frame for passage of the proposed law because no matter the constitutionality of the BBL will surely be questioned at the High Court.
The senator said the President does not have the authority to negotiate with another party for the creation of a sub-state. She noted that the agreement signed between the government and the MILF in March 2014 that eventually led to the drafting of the BBL is not binding.
Santiago, a constitutional law expert, believes that the establishment of a Bangsamoro government is akin to the creation of a sub-state.
The senator explained that Aquino does not have the sole power to negotiate on foreign policy. In fact, she said, the President needs the concurrence of Congress, specifically the Senate, to ratify a treaty.
“Even if the President already ratified a treaty, it [the treaty]cannot come into force in our country unless the Senate concurs in the ratification, so this shows you the attitude of the Constitution is that foreign policy power must be equally shared between the President and Congress [Senate],” Santiago added.
She pointed out that if the Constitution required the concurrence of the Senate on matters regarding foreign policy, the chamber’s approval would also be needed if the President authorized a so-called peace process.
Santiago questioned the authority of the MILF to represent the Bangsamoro or the entire Islamic people within Philippine territory.
She explained that aside from the MILF, there are other groups that have surfaced and that raises the question of which among them has the authority to claim that it represents the people in region.
“The first thing that would happen the moment the Bangsamoro law is passed is there will be internal war, another non-international armed conflict and this time it will be among those claiming to be leaders in the region,” the senator said.
Like the government, Santiago added, the MILF also has no process in choosing who will be true representatives of the Bangsamoro or how they will coordinate each other.
She said it would be best to scrap the BBL and start the process all over again. According to her, the Senate should first be asked if it is willing to grant power to the President to negotiate a separate form of government.
Since the BBL is already there, the senator said, the next best thing for Malacanang to do is to form its own committee that will review the measure and correct provisions that are considered unconstitutional.
Santiago said there is no reason for Congress to rush the passage of the BBL because even if it is able to meet the target date, it will immediately be questioned before the SC.
“So to say for example that by this year 2015 we will have peace in Mindanao because of this process [BBL] is misguided,” she added.
Santiago maintained that some provisions of the BBL are unconstitutional.
Senator Ferdinand Marcos Jr., chairman of the Senate Committee on Local Government, said his panel’s action on the BBL will be based on his intention to craft a good law and not driven by a “deadline” set by other people.
“Haste could be a fatal waste. The BBL is not a magic pill to stop the war in Mindanao, although it’s an important element in the quest for lasting peace. I will try to meet the proposed deadline. But I will not sacrifice the necessity of getting it right,” Marcos added.