Press Release
May 30, 2018

Drilon: Congress must ensure BBL can withstand judicial review

Senate Minority Leader Franklin M. Drilon has introduced several amendments to the Senate version of the proposed Bangsamoro Basic Law of (BBL) to make sure that the measure will not suffer the same fate as the Memorandum of Agreement on the Ancestral Domain (MOA-AD), which the Supreme Court declared as unconstitutional.

"We must avoid the constitutional issues that led to the downfall of the previous Memorandum of Agreement on Ancestral Domain in 2008," Drilon said, as he reiterates support for the measure.

"Considering the importance of the Bangsamoro Basic Law to attaining lasting and just peace in Muslim Mindanao, as legislators we must guarantee that every word in this law would survive judicial review," Drilon said.

Drilon said he expects that the BBL will be elevated to the Supreme Court once enacted into law.

"I want to make sure that the BBL that we will pass in Congress is 100 percent in conformity with the 1987 Constitution," Drilon said.

"All our amendments are designed to cleanse it of unconstitutional provisions so it can withstand judicial scrutiny. We cannot afford a repeat of what happened in the MOA-AD," Drilon stressed.

The said agreement, signed by the administration of President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) in 2008, was struck down by the Supreme Court in the landmark case Province of North Cotabato vs. the Government of the Republic of Philippines (GR. 183591), as the high court said the agreement was unconstitutional and illegal, and the process through which it was commenced "whimsical, capricious, oppressive, arbitrary and despotic."

"It is imperative that we learn from the past and make sure that we avoid making the same deadly mistakes all over again," he said.

He added: "We must do it right this time in order that peace and stability in Mindanao will finally be realized."

Hence, Drilon made several substantial amendments during the hours-long deliberations of the Senate on Senate Bill No. 1717 on Tuesday that lasted 10 hours.

Among the important amendments he introduced "in order to strengthen the law's adherence to constitution" is to delete the provision on "reserved powers" for the new Bangsamoro Autonomous Region, given that the Constitution already provides for the residual powers of the National Government vis-a-vis autonomous regions.

"We reiterate the Sec. 17, Art. 10 of the Constitution in this section," he added. Section 17 Art. X provides that "All powers, functions, and responsibilities not granted by this Constitution or by law to the autonomous regions shall be vested in the National Government."

Drilon sees this as among the contentious provisions when the Senate and House of Representatives pass their own versions and eventually meet in the bicameral conference committee.

"We did away with nomenclatures, used no specific name and simply mirrored the wording of the Constitution, and gave powers to the Bangsamoro government in keeping with the constitutional provisions on local autonomy," Drilon said.

Drilon noted that it was particularly the wording of the MOA-AD which led the Supreme Court to declare it as unconstitutional, since its provisions vested the proposed Bangsamoro entity the status of an associated state which is not recognized by the present Constitution.

Drilon also successfully moved for the inclusion of the provision reiterating "that the Bangsamoro people are citizens of the Republic of the Philippines."

The Bangsamoro Transition Commission (BTC) opposed the said amendment, which puzzled Drilon, saying that his proposed amendment only reiterates the wordings of the Constitution on Philippine citizenship.

"This was introduced to prevent any misinterpretation that that there is a 'Bangsamoro citizenship', because we are all Filipinos and we are all citizens of the Philippines," Drilon emphasized.

The minority leader also moved to amend the bill to remove the province of Palawan from the list of areas considered as historically part of Bangsamoro territory. The amendment was put on a vote following opposition from the sponsor and the BTC. Drilon's amendment was carried.

The senator also encountered stiff opposition to his proposal to introduce an anti- political dynasty provision for the Bangsamoro government, which was meant to reinforce the country's efforts to address political dynasties and its effect to public governance. The matter was temporarily set aside, disappointing Drilon, who insisted that the policy of anti-political dynasty must be put across.

Drilon also lauded and supported efforts made by Senators Panfilo Lacson and Gregorio Honasan to ensure that the Bangsamoro police will be under the Philippine National Police in keeping with the Constitutional precept that there shall be one police force.

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