Congress must ensure BBL can withstand judicial review : Drilon

MANILA Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon on Wednesday said the amendments he introduced to the Senate version of the proposed Bangsamoro Basic Law of (BBL) were to make sure that the measure is constitutionally firm and would survive judicial scrutiny 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. 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 in a statement.

He said that all the amendments being introduced in the Senate are designed to cleanse the proposed measure of unconstitutional provisions so that it will not suffer the same fate as the Memorandum of Agreement on Ancestral Domain (MOA-AD).

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 (SC) which ruled that the agreement was unconstitutional and illegal, and the process through which it was commenced as "whimsical, capricious, oppressive, arbitrary and despotic."

Expecting the BBL to be elevated also ato the SC once enacted, the Senate Minority Leader said that all constitutional issues that led to the downfall of the MOA-AD should be avoided.

"We cannot afford a repeat of what happened in the MOA-AD. It is imperative that we learn from the past and make sure that we avoid making the same deadly mistakes all over again. We must do it right this time in order that peace and stability in Mindanao will finally be realized," Drilon said as he reiterated his full support for the BBL.

He noted that it was particularly the wording of the MOA-AD which led the SC 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.

Thus, 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 Sec. 17, Art. 10 of the Constitution in this section,"Drilon said.

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."

"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.

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

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

Drilon also moved to amend the bill to remove the province of Palawan from the list of areas considered as historically part of Bangsamoro territory.

Meanwhile, 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.

Drilon's amendments were introduced during Tuesday's plenary deliberations on the BBL that lasted 10 hours.

Deliberations were continued Wednesday and senators are again expecting to work overtime as they try to pass the bill on the last day of session before Congress adjourns sine die (with no appointed date for resumption). (Senate PR)

Source: Philippine News Agency