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BBL haste makes waste?

Ninez Cacho-Olivares

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Chances are high the Supreme Court will likely declare as unconstitutional the Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) once ratified by Congress and signed into law by President Rodrigo Duterte.

It will be the same problem encountered by Congress under two different governments and their versions of the BBL.

This will be the third time government has tried to have the BBL passed, having failed to pass constitutional muster.

Going by the pattern, if the High Court junks this BBL, the MILF should have no reason to resume the armed hostilities, as it did in the past, after the SC declared the Memorandum of Agreement on Ancestral Domain unconstitutional.

The reason for the SC junking of the BBL may be due to a proviso on the transitory government, where the Bangsamoro government’s system and structure will be parliamentary, apart from some territorial problems, which may include giving the Bangsamoro government control over the air, sea and land.

The MILF insistence on a Bangsamoro government in a parliamentary system is when past governments and even the present one, always give in to this rebel group.

But why does the MILF continue to insist on a parliamentary form of government for the Bangsamoro which is, at this time, just an autonomous region and under a presidential form of government?

A pure parliamentary government for the Bangsamoro people translates to the MILF having a prime minister and a parliament, which may mean a one-chamber parliament that will moreover elect its prime minister. This means that it is not the electorate that will determine who it wants as its prime minister, but the elected parliamentarians, who may not even know how to legislate with even the Cabinet government not knowing how to run government as they don’t have the background and experience in running a democratic government.

For the transition period, the officials to run the Bangsamoro government will be appointees of President Duterte and not elected by the Bangsamoro people.

It is the MILF leaders who are apparently being tapped by the Duterte government to head the transition government under a pure parliamentary system, which has always been the problem since the country is still under the presidential system and form of government.

The Supreme Court is likely to thumb this down as it did during the previous government agreements on the MILF’s insistence on a parliamentary system under an autonomous region.

What is difficult to understand is the MILF, which has apparently agreed to be a part of government and will have to follow the law according to the Constitution, still refuses to retain the presidential system and insist on its own system.

With the appointed officials running the transitory government that will be a parliamentary Cabinet government, the MILF leaders are expected to be in power and position without the mandate of the Bangsamoro people. This would be pretty undemocratic especially since it is expected that once in power and position, government will continue to be run by the same officials for too many terms. This is the usual pattern existing in many parliamentary governments in Muslim countries, as well as some Asian governments.

Why, then, is Congress putting the cart before the horse?

Of course, there is this rush for the country to get federalism going. However, there is no certainty that even if both chambers of Congress agree to charter change to usher in a federal system and form of government, the electorate may just reject this, especially since the National Budget would be bloated to the max given the fact that some provinces and megacities in the proposed 18 states can’t depend on their IRA for such states to survive.

The House has finished its version of the bill, with this ready by the time the State of the Nation Address comes around.

Senate Majority Leader Juan Miguel Zubiri said that since “this bill is very important, and we want the President to announce that we have complied with our promise to the MILF that lasting peace will continue in Mindanao, we will break protocol and we will tackle this BBL to show the people that the government is sincere in achieving lasting peace,” he added.

Peace with the MILF rebels is not as easy as Zubiri makes it seem.

Will peace with the MILF still come should the High Court declare the BBL unconstitutional?
The last two times, the MILF, along with the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters, burned and pillaged the homes of people living in Christian communities. Are they likely to abide by what the SC rules if it again junks the BBL?