Constitutional or unconstitutional?


Apparently, the Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL), which will still go through the Bicameral Conference Committee, still depends on the Moro Islamic Liberation Front leaders on the BBL’s acceptance of rejection, even if the bill passes muster, since the changes made may not be acceptable to the MILF, so said one of its leaders.

Despite Sen. Juan Miguel Zubiri intimating that the Senate had to make sure that the latest “urgent” bill, complies with the 1987 Constitution, it will still be the MILF that will have the final say.

By way of explanation, Zubiri said with the Mindanao political clans expected to challenge the proposed Bangsamoro Basic Law in the Supreme Court, then the Senate should ensure the BBL must make sure the bill won’t be junked by the SC as being unconstitutional.

However, even before the BBL was brought before the High Court, there went MILF vice chair Ghadzali Jaafar for political affairs and chairman of the Bangsamoro Transition Commission, as he issued a veiled threat, saying everything depends on the final BBL being acceptable to the Moro people.

“If there’s no BBL [acceptable to the Moro people], there is no decommissioning for us. That’s a policy,” Jaafar said.

One is tempted to ask: Just who are the “Moro people”? Certainly not the MILF as a group, although from all indications it is the MILF that keeps on calling in the name of the Moro people, even when it really would be just the MILF leaders claiming this.

And how do the Filipino people — save for the Moros — who are about to be fed by the House and the Senate with a bill that may become law when signed by the President, and with the Filipino people playing no part in saying yes or no to a BBL?

More importantly, when the MILF leaders claim that everything will depend on acceptance of the BBL by the Moro people, how do we—especially the Moro people, some of whom, apparently don’t want to be Filipino citizens and want their own Moro identity—really know how many truly accept being part of a Bangsamoro region? How do we know that it is just the MILF leaders who claim the name of the Moro people?

The only way one would know whether the Moro people as well as the other tribes who may not be Muslims—at least the majority of all of them in the region —want to be ruled under a Bangsamoro government that will still be led by the MILF, if not through a vote on whether the BBL is acceptable, not just to the Moro people but the Filipino people, since we are all part of the same territory and are all citizens of the Philippines since presumably, the region will be an autonomous region and part and parcel of the Republic of the Philippines, not the Republic of the MILF.

MILF leaders’ threat is that the MILF has “several options as a revolutionary organization” if the final law fails to deal with the roots of the decades long armed conflict in Mindanao.

“As revolutionary leaders, we will decide. Modesty aside, we are not trained to talk much but are trained to do more,” Jaafar told the audience.

Zubiri for his part, appears to be ensuring that the Senate version is compliant with the Constitution, saying that it is important that the final outcome of the work of the bicameral conference committee is constitutionally compliant.

Passing the BBL, he said, is the last step in the government’s Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro (CAB) before the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) totally decommissions its fighters.

Legislators plan to ratify the final version of the draft BBL when Congress resumes session on July 23 then send the same to President Duterte, who apparently is ready to sign it before he delivers his State of the Nation Address.

The Senate appears to be convinced that, with the Senate amendments’ inclusion of the reiteration that the BBL has to adhere to the framework of the 1987 Constitution, the Bangsamoro remains under the jurisdiction of the Republic of the Philippines, and that the people of the Bangsamoro region are citizens of the Philippines that have territorial jurisdiction, Zubiri said.

The Senate version also provides for a bigger Bangsamoro region, with wealth and power-sharing arrangements with the central government.

Jaafar was quoted in reports as saying “peace and order” is at stake in passing the BBL since a law that fell short of what was agreed upon in the 2014 peace agreement would not be accepted by breakaway groups, including the Maute and the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters.

The bet is ten to one that these groups won’t join the MILF and the BBL once signed into law.

Then too, can a BBL amend the Philippine Constitution’s proviso on the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao?

What are your thoughts?

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