MANILA, Oct. 29 (PNA) — Several legal luminaries declared on Tuesday that the proposed Bangsamoro Basic Law is constitutional and emphasized that it should be read within the context of restorative justice and addressing historical injustices.
“Bangsamoro is an attempt to redress long historical imbalances,” retired Supreme Court Associate Justice Adolfo Azcuna said during a hearing of the Ad Hoc Committee on the BBL at the House of Representatives, presided by Cagayan de Oro second district Rep. Rufus Rodriguez, himself a constitutionalist and former Dean of the San Sebastian College of Law.
Azcuna noted that the BBL provides for the recognition of a “distinct (Bangsamoro) nation within the Philippine state” and this is “not unconstitutional.”
The former SC justice’s statement is in reference to the asymmetric relationship between the central and proposed Bangsamoro governments.
“There has to be rebalancing in order to pay for the long list of injustices,” Azcuna said, adding that the asymmetric relationship between the autonomous region and central government is an attempt to address that imbalance.
According to Article VI of the proposed BBL, also known as House Bill 4994 at HOR, “the relationship between the Central Government and the Bangsamoro Government shall be asymmetric. This is reflective of the recognition of their Bangsamoro identity, and their aspiration for self-governance. This makes it distinct from other regions and other local governments.”
Azcuna further appreciated the BBL provision that “the Bangsamoro territory shall remain a part of the Philippines.” He said it is a “valid provision because (it clarifies that) there is no dismemberment of country involved.”
Meanwhile, Integrated Bar of the Philippines (IBP) National Secretary Atty. Nasser Marohomsalic said that “Congress has all reasons to pass this Bangsamoro bill which is not a case of charity, but an ordinance of peace that will rectify historical injustices.”
Marohomsalic was a member of the independent pool of lawyers invited by the Government of the Philippines (GPH) and Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) peace panels to review the draft BBL before its submission to Congress.
Philippine Bar Association Committee on Constitutional Law co-chair Atty. Oscar Tan agrees with Marohomsalic’s statement, emphasizing that the BBL is not an ordinary law. He said that reading it can be done either broadly or restrictively.
“We are entitled to have legal experiments…This is a broad document to empower future generations. This (law) is not charity, but restorative justice for all of us,” he said.
Ateneo School of Government Dean Dr. Antonio La Viña expressed support to the BBL, saying that he sees no unconstitutional provisions in the proposed law. Rather, he lauded the GPH for having done an inclusive peace process. “Thinking ahead of legal challenges, the best scenario here is that you have addressed major issues of major stakeholders.” He recommended, however, that the BBL should be added with a part on definition of terms that will address vagueness of some concepts.
For his part, retired Supreme Court Associate Justice Vicente Mendoza began his comments on the Bangsamoro bill with an appreciation to the GPH in a way that “much has been done (by the Parties) to bring the BBL in conformity with the Constitution.”
While he expressed reservations on some provisions like the concept of asymmetric relations, he said he was “glad to see there is effort to comply with the Constitution” when the BBL states that “the President shall exercise general supervision over the Bangsamoro Government.”
BBL, a masterpiece in peace-making
Dr. Jose Abueva, the former President of the University of the Philippines, expressed his full support to the passage of the Bangsamoro bill.
“We fully support the enactment of the BBL. What is good for the Moros is good for all Filipinos. (The creation of) Bangsamoro is a welcome model for achieving genuine regional autonomy and development,” he said.
According to Abueva, the Bangsamoro bill is “very enlightening, gratifying” and he is most hopeful that it is a “masterpiece in peace-making” to resolve a decades-old conflict.
The BBL is the enabling law for the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro (CAB) which was signed by the GPH and MILF early this year. The passage and ratification of BBL will create the Bangsamoro region, which will replace the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM).
Saying that the country needs a progressive political outlook, Abueva pointed out that the “Philippine Constitution must be interpreted as enabling authority rather than as obstacle” to the fulfillment of a Bangsamoro autonomous political entity.
“We all need an enlightened sense of history, inclusive view of Filipino nationalism, and broad concept of redistributive justice. Our Supreme Court must look forward guided by our lofty national vision in our Constitution and not be bound by restrictive precedents,” said Abueva.
Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process Teresita Quintos Deles, GPH Peace Panel Chair Prof. Miriam Coronel-Ferrer, GPH panel member Senen Bacani, Human Rights Victims Claims Board member Chito Gascon, and Bangsamoro Transition Commission (BTC) members Fatmawati Salapuddin and Akmad Sakkam were likewise present during the hearing.
Gascon underscored that the Philippine Constitution clearly mandates autonomy for Muslim Mindanao and the envisioned Bangsamoro is consistent with this mandate of the Constitution itself. He said there is no need for charter change to create the Bangsamoro. “It is possible to establish expanded autonomy we have not achieved ever” in Philippine history. (PNA)