Malacañang and Congress have asked the Supreme Court to dismiss the petition assailing the constitutionality of the Bangsamoro Organic Law.
In a 118-page comment, the Palace and both Houses of Congress, through the Office of the Solicitor general, asked the high court to dump the petition filed in October by the Sulu provincial government seeking to strike down the BOL or Republic Act 11054 and to stop its implementation.
Solicitor General Jose Calida said the BOL does not violate section 18, Article X of the 1987 Constitution, which authorized only one Organic Act to establish the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao.
He rejected the argument of the petitioner that the law should have had the approval of Sulu and the other provinces under the ARMM through majority voting as separate units, saying this was not required by the Constitution.
“The [separate] voting requirement provided in Section 18, Article X of the 1987 Constitution applies only to the creation of an autonomous region, not to the amendment of the law, nor to the expansion of its territorial jurisdiction,” Calida says in his comment.
He says the law signed by President Rodrigo Duterte in July last year, which created a Bangsamoro Autonomous Region, was not exactly a creation of a new autonomous region as described in the Constitution, but rather an amendment of the organic act and an expansion of the territorial jurisdiction of the ARMM.
“When Congress decides to expand the territory of the autonomous region, the requirement does not apply to the subsisting provinces, cities of geographical areas of the autonomous region, but only to those provinces, cities or geographical areas proposed by Congress to be added therein,” the Executive and Legislative department said in their comment.
“A majority of the votes in all constituent units put together is sufficient for those provinces, cities or geographical areas already part of the autonomous region.”
Calida says the expansion of the ARMM does not require an amendment of the Constitution since Congress only needs to amend or repeal the Organic Act on ARMM.
“Congress retains the plenary power to amend and repeal the Organic Act that created the ARMM. The power to amend and repeal laws is included in the general and express grant of legislative power under Section 1, Article VI of the 1987 Constitution,” Calida said.
“The creation of an autonomous region in Muslim Mindanao is through an organic law, categorized as a statute passed by Congress. As a statute, the organic law may be amended or repealed by Congress pursuant to its general legislative power.”
Calida, in invoking the powers of Congress to amend and repeal statutes, says the high court has no power to review the BOL because the issues raised by the petitioner involves political questions.
“The issues raised in the present petition are purely political questions that this Honorable Court is not permitted by the 1987 Constitution to examine,” Calida said.
He said the BOL complied with the requirement for the governmental setup for an autonomous region under the constitutional provision.
Calida also rejected the petitioner’s assertion that the law erased the identity of the indigenous cultural minorities in Sulu by automatically including it in the BAR without their knowledge and consent and also against their will and in violation of their rights.