Maguindanao legal fuzz (2)

The rumor that somebody was appointed by the BARMM leadership as Acting Governor is not without legal and practical bases.

The issue of who will serve as Acting Governor of the newly created Maguindanao del Norte caught the attention of Moro netizens when news circulated on social media that a Senior Minister and top official of BARMM had been appointed Interim Governor thereof. This went viral. Good thing this was denied and clarified as a handiwork of “Marites” (gossips).

As we have mentioned, this was triggered by the fuzzy transitory provisions of Republic Act No. 11550. If one goes by the text of the law, one will be ensnared in a labyrinth of varied interpretations by legal minds engaged in cerebral calisthenics.

Let’s read the repartee of the Maranaw lawyers.

A solution was offered by a lawyer who is a top Commission on Elections provincial official in Maguindanao (I won’t name him lest it compromises his position), which is to look beyond the black letter of the law and consider its “spirit.” He likewise challenged congressmen of the affected area to file pronto a law calling for a special election in Maguindanao del Norte to settle the issue, or else those to be appointed in acting capacity will serve until the regular election in 2025.

He conceded that the assumption of Vice Governor Sinsuat “may not be exactly as provided in RA 11550 but it is the need of the time.”

He presented an enigma: “What if the President will not appoint (a governor) in order to balance out the political atmosphere in the new province, was it wise to have just created a new province without governance?”

The past president of the Integrated Bar of the Philippines-Lanao del Sur chapter, Bayan Balt, also suggested that we go by the “spirit of the law” as a way out of the morass of uncertainty. He opined that the provision in the law is “self-executing” and there is no need for an appointment by the President unless somebody questions it.

A leading member of the local bar who goes by the sobriquet “Karu Mamis” evaded taking a position on the issue but instead opined that the controversy is more a “management issue rather than a legal or political one.” In the governance of the two new provinces, he suggested a “Big Brother-Little Brother” relationship with Maguindanao del Sur as Big Brother and del Norte as Little Brother sharing the internal revenue allocation and other resources.

Former Vice Governor Dimapuno Datu-Ramos agreed about resorting to the spirit of the law but lamented that “in our justice system, the spirit of the law is always taken for granted and forgotten.” He anticipated that “it needs the courts of the land to define (the law) so that justice will be served.”

He maintained that “underneath the core issue is the legitimacy of the sitting officials for we are a government of laws and not of men.” He predicted that the President would act by what to him will serve the national interest or that of the present administration.

Lawyer Paisal Padate chimed in with a tinge of religious admonition proselytizing about the power of Allah Almighty vis a vis a secular matter.

The rumor that somebody was appointed by the BARMM leadership as Acting Governor is not without legal and practical bases. As pointed out by the Comelec official referred to earlier, “The new province cannot be left without a leader. If the MILG-BARMM is not satisfied it may designate its own while the President does not appoint yet.”

True, the leadership of BARMM which has statutory supervision over the provinces may act on an urgent matter if there is a prospect of jeopardizing the delivery of public service. It will be a gross dereliction of duty if the BARMM leadership will just sit idly by and watch the disruption of public service because of nonaction by the appointing authority. Appointing an interim governor must have crossed the mind of the clique of advisers of the interim Chief Minister, which triggered the rumor.

Meantime, let cooler heads intervene to prevent the situation from deteriorating into partisan confrontation.

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