MALACAñANG on Thursday stood pat on the legality of the recently signed Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro (CAB), saying the contents of the pact fall within the framework of the Philippine Constitution.
Palace spokesman Edwin Lacierda told reporters that fears that the CAB may end up like the defunct Memorandum of Agreement on Ancestral Domain (MOA-AD) are farfetched because the government and Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) panels have given assurances that the CAB is “constitutionally defensible.” The MOA-AD was rejected by the Supreme Court in 2008.
“The Bangsamoro agreement was crafted keeping in mind that it should be within the flexibilities of the Constitution.
We adhere to the belief that the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro is constitutionally defensible,” Lacierda said.
On Wednesday, Sen. Miriam Defensor Santiago said she found some provisions in the CAB that are contrary to the dictates of the 1987 Charter.
Santiago, who heads the Senate Committee on Constitutional Amendments, noted that the agreement establishes a sub-state, not an autonomous region, which is the only territory that the Constitution allows to be created.
An expert in constitutional and international laws, she explained that the entity that will replace the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) is a sub-state that will exercise certain sovereign powers that should be reserved only for the central government.
Santiago cited Part 7, paragraph 4, subparagraph (b) of the Bangsamoro agreement, defining one of the functions of the Transition Commission that she said she finds ridiculous.
But government peace panel chairman Miriam Coronel-Ferrer echoed Lacierda’s assertion, stressing that “through every stage of the negotiations, we remained ever mindful of the President’s instructions that any agreement we must conclude must be within the framework of the 1987 Constitution, and accordingly, the roadmap set by the CAB leads to Congress as the established lawmaking institution.”
Ferrer said she would seek a meeting with Santiago and other members of Congress “to extensively discuss the different provisions in the CAB and to allow for a deeper understanding of the context and substance of the documents.”
“In the meantime, we are waiting for the Bangsamoro Transition Commission to finish its draft bill on the Bangsamoro which will be endorsed by the President as an administration bill to Congress for their due consideration and passage at the soonest possible time,” she added.
The Bangsamoro Basic Law, once enacted, shall serve as the organic act for the autonomous region in Muslim Mindanao provided for in the 1987 Constitution.
House Deputy Majority Leader Sherwin Tugna of Citizens’ Battle Against Corruption party-list and former Justice Secretary Simeon Datumanong also on Thursday said Santiago saying the Bangsamoro agreement is illegal may be premature.
The CAB allows the Transition Commission to work only on “proposals” to amend the Constitution, Datumanong pointed out.
Reps. Silvestre Bello 3rd of 1-BAP party-list and Rep. Rodito Albano of Isabela agreed with Datumanong, saying the CAB is clear that Congress, not the Transition Commission, decides on constitutional matters.
“I don’t agree with her [Santiago]. What the Transition Committee will submit is just a draft Bangsamoro Basic Law.
It is up to Congress to pass a law that will comply with the Constitution,” Bello, also a former Justice secretary, said in a text message.
With Llanesca T. Panti