A question of constitutionality


Muslim rebels always had a constitutional problem with the different administrations due to their insistence of having their own territory over which they hold control and for them to have their own style of governance, separate and different from the existing Philippine government.

This is the main reason its latest move in getting the Bangsamoro Organic Law (BOL) going may again meet up with judicial problems.

The Philippine Constitution Association (Philconsa), a body made up of constitutionalists and framers of the 1987 Charter, has gone to the Supreme Court (SC) with a petition questioning the BOL, as the plea asked the High Court to declare it as, so says the group, illegal and unconstitutional, since granting a wider autonomy to Muslim Mindanao goes against the existing Charter.

In its plea, Philconsa stressed that the BOL violates Sections 18 and 19 of Article X of the 1987 Constitution owing to the fact that the Constitution authorized the enactment of only one organic act for Muslim Mindanao and another one but in the Cordilleras.

As everyone should know, matters of making any changes in the Charter through amendments can only be done through the constitutional modes existing in the 1987 Constitution.

Philconsa assailed the legality of Republic Act (RA) 11054 or the BOL which, if allowed by the High Court, would form another Bangsamoro Autonomous Region (BAR) to replace the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) as a result of a 2014 peace deal with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF).

Not even Congress can abolish the existing ARMM nor create a second autonomous region just for the MILF in Mindanao. The Constitution has not given Congress that power and mandate.

Philconsa, in its petition, stated that establishing a parliamentary form of government in the Bangsamoro Region violates the doctrine of separation of powers enshrined in the Constitution.

The petition stated that “any exercise of power of the Legislative and the Executive departments or any of their respective functionaries beyond what is circumscribed by the Constitution and law is unconstitutional and a nullity.”

This parliamentary system that the Moro leaders insist on establishing in the Muslim region is one of the biggest barriers to BOL’s chances of being declared constitutional, among other unconstitutional provisos in the crafted BOL.

The MILF leaders have always insisted on having a parliamentary system and government, with a prime minister, which would put the PM on equal footing with the constitutional president and government operating under a presidential system.

Why does the MILF expect to be constitutionally correct by operating under a pure parliamentary system when the Philippines operates under a constitutional presidential system that the Charter mandates?

And to think that the MILF wants to have this independent parliamentary system virtually operating independent of the presidential system and to think too that this unconstitutional system can pass muster and in a third autonomous region?

From the time peace talks started with these Muslim insurgents, they have always insisted on establishing a parliamentary system for themselves, which is really not workable, not only because the country operates under a presidential system, but also because the BOL, as crafted by the legislature and even signed into law by President Duterte, cannot pass muster.
The Constitution is as clear as day that the ARRM and the Cordillera Autonomous Region are only the two autonomous regions recognized by the Charter.

Obviously, the MILF does not want to operate under the existing ARMM as constitutionally granted by the 1987 Constitution. It wants a different autonomous region completely controlled by the MILF and operating under a parliamentary system and operating too, as a substate. Whichever way it is cut, it will be a substate.

As the petition went, it stated, “In light of the language of Article X of the Constitution and the clarifications elicited by Fr. Joaquin Bernas and Blas Ople, it is submitted that: (a) A constitutional amendment is the only way to create a new and distinct autonomous region, such as the (BAR) in this case or to abolish an existing autonomous region, such as the ARMM; (b) Congress is prohibited or has no authority or jurisdiction to create other autonomous regions; (c) Congress cannot defy or supplant the Constitution and (d) Congress cannot amend the provisions of the Constitution.”

The other problem is that the ponente of this case is SC Associate Justice Marvic Leonen, who should recuse himself, given the fact that he was deeply involved in peace talks with the MILF during the yellow President’s reign.

The way it looks, the MILF’s real intent is to first operate under a parliamentary system as a substate, after which, with the Muslim countries providing the MILF helicopters, sophisticated firearms and big loans, the MILF will then declare independence for Mindanao, gear up for war and become an independent state.

Filipinos can say goodbye to Mindanao and give the creation of an independent Islamic state in this country a decade or less.

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