This is in response to The Manila Times’ editorial entitled “Iqbal’s Words Do Not Bind—The Signed Documents Do,” published Friday, September 26.
At the outset, the Government of the Philippines (GPH) peace panel wishes to affirm that discussions on the proposed Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL), now House Bill 4994 and Senate Bill 2408, are essential components of the successful and meaningful conduct of the peace process. Now that the respective committees of both chambers of Congress are deliberating the proposed BBL, it is more than opportune to have as many discussions and conversations on the proposed BBL as well as the signed agreements (contained in the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro) in various venues or platforms in order to keep the public engaged in this all-important proposed piece of legislation. Be that as it may, the GPH panel would like to furnish only accurate information regarding the BBL and the signed agreements to help the public form educated opinions, which are the lifeblood of healthy democratic discourse. In this light, the GPH panel wishes to make clarifications on some points raised in the editorial that require further refinement and better explication.
The editorial mentioned that, “the most striking feature of “Framework Agreement” (FAG [sic][recte FAB]) and the “Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro” (CAB) is the seeming annihilation, the non-existence, of the Philippine Republic, the Philippine Constitution, the Philippine Supreme Court and judicial system, and other hallowed institutions.”
This claim is decidedly unfounded.
First, neither the Bangsamoro Bill nor the signed agreements proposes the establishment of an independent or separate state. On the contrary, the proposed BBL emphatically guarantees that, “The Bangsamoro territory shall remain a part of the Philippines” (Article III, Section 1). This constitutes a stark recognition of the Republic of the Philippines as well as a definite acknowledgement of the fullness of its sovereignty and territorial integrity. Parenthetically, the proposed BBL does not even contemplate the creation of a sub-state, let alone the creation of a separate state. It rather seeks to establish an autonomous region as provided in the Constitution.
Secondly, a careful reading of the provisions of the proposed BBL would reveal that the Bangsamoro fully recognizes and affords a becoming respect for the Supreme Court and the judicial system that it commands. In several provisions of the proposed BBL (e.g. Article VIII, Section 25; and Article V, Section 2.11), the
constitutional prerogatives and powers of the Supreme Court are fully preserved and respected within the Bangsamoro. The same becoming regard is likewise extended to the other hallowed institutions of the State (e.g. Constitutional Commissions) in the proposed BBL.
The editorial also made reference to a certain Manila Times reader who purportedly demanded that all documents should “state in black and white that the Moros accept that they are citizens of the Republic of the Philippines, that they respect and obey the Philippine Constitution, and are willing to have these changes realized under the majesty of the Philippine Constitution and the prescribed processes under the laws of our land.”
On this point, we wish to underscore that the stated concerns are already fully addressed in the proposed BBL.
The proposed BBL, in scattered provisions (e.g. Article V, Section 1.5, Article VII, Section 12, Article XIII, Section 11, among others), completely recognizes and maintains the Filipino citizenship of the Bangsamoro. While those who elect to be part of the Bangsamoro territory may identify themselves as Bangsamoro by ascription or self-ascription, this shall not affect their Filipino citizenship. The proposed BBL merely gives due recognition to the Bangsamoro identity as a unique facet of the autonomy and self-governance in the region.
Finally, it should be noted that all provisions in the BBL as well as the signed agreements were thoroughly studied and reviewed to conform to the Constitution. As such, the Preamble of the proposed BBL categorically states that the provisions contained therein are “in consonance with the Constitution.” The full respect for and the espousal of the “majesty of the Philippine Constitution” for the Bangsamoro therefore find solemn expression in the proposed BBL. Relatedly, this signifies that the processes involving the Bangsamoro will certainly conform to and obey the constitutionally- and legally-prescribed procedures. The proceedings in both chambers of Congress that are presently underway precisely constitute one of such “prescribed processes under the laws of our land.”
We hope we have clarified the substance of the BBL on the points discussed. We commend The Manila Times for their interest in stirring public discussion on such a vital topic, and we look forward to continue as partners in providing the public with reliable information to help push constructive dialogue.
Atty. Mohammad Al-Amin M. Julkipli
Member, Legal Team of GPH Peace Panel
for talks with MILF
Office of the Presidential Adviser
on the Peace Process (OPAPP)
Agustin 1 Bldg, F. Ortigas Jr. Road, Ortigas Center
REPUBLIC OF THE PHILIPPINES
(30 September 2014)_