A LEADER of the Palace-supported Peace Council formed by President Benigno Aquino III admitted Tuesday that the Bangsamo Basic Law proposed by the administration and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front that “constitutional issues” needed to be “refined.”
In testimony before the Senate, former Chief Justice Hilario Davide backtracked on his earlier declaration that the BBL was constitutional.
Under questioning, Davide said “it would be very, very clear from our recommendations, unless we do something about these areas, and some refinements would be done, then the constitutional issues may remain.”
Pressed further, Davide said: “We can’t simply declare [the BBL] unconstitutional when only a few
[provisions] are found violative of the Constitution or perceived to be violative of the Constitution.”
Senator Francis Escudero said he raised the issue about changes to the basic law because the mantra of government peace negotiators is that the draft should not be amended or watered down.
But Davide said one of the provisions of the BBL that needed “refinement” was the description of the Bangsamoro government as parliamentary.
Elsewhere, however, it is referred to as “a ministerial form of government.”
To avoid any confusion and possible misinterpretation, Davide said the term ministerial be dropped and replaced with “parliamentary” for consistency and clarity.
Another problematic provision calls for parliamentary elections upon a two-third vote of no-confidence by all members of the parliament against the government of the day, Davide said.
Instead, the Peace Council suggests that the no-confidence should affect the government of the day, not the entire parliament. In this way, he said, parliamentary elections in the Bangsamoro could be synchronized with national and local elections elsewhere in the country.
But Davide also disagreed with critics who said the grant of exclusive powers to the Bangsamoro government makes it superior to the central government.
He said this only refers to powers devolved to the Bangsamoro government, which remains under the central government as an autonomous region.
He said to avoid misunderstanding, such powers should be called “exclusive and devolved.”
The BBL, he said, provides that the Supreme Court and the constitutional bodies maintain the powers given them under the Constitution.
“There is neither substitution nor diminution of powers intended or effected by the creation of the Bangsamoro human rights, auditing, civil service and electoral offices,” he said.
But to avoid confusion, Davide said, the council recommended that the portions on these agencies include the clause “subject to review powers of the Supreme Court.”
Davide said the BBL was an important piece of legislation that represented a “momentous opening” to correct the mistakes of the past.
He added that the draft law complies with the Constitution’s mandate for the creation of autonomous regions within the framework of national sovereignty.
In a news conference after the hearing, Marcos said the Peace Council reports supported their assertions that the BBL should be amended to make it compliant with the Constitution. This was contrary to the stand of Malacanang.
“We are able to see that the Peace Council recognizes the deficiencies of the BBL and that there is need to amend it or to clarify,” he said.
He said this countered the insistence of the government peace negotiators and the MILF that there was no need to revise the BBL.
“I think I can categorically state that the draft BBL, as transmitted by (President Aquino) to the Senate and the House of Representatives in its form, won’t pass either House,” Maros said.
Escudero and Marcos said they will study the proposals from the Peace Council.
The Palace said Tuesday that the Peace Council, formed at the President’s suggestion, was an independent group.
“There was no implication that they needed to support the BBL,” said Communication Secretary Herminio Coloma Jr.
Coloma then reported on the council’s work, saying it made a 196-page report on a 122-page piece of legislation, and consulted 136 representatives form different sectors.
“That’s the reason why we could say they (Council) went through the draft BBL thoroughly. They studied this in a thorough manner and this became the basis of their observation and recommendation,” Coloma said.
He echoed the Council’s observation that the BBL was “overwhelmingly acceptable and deserves the support of all Filipinos.” – With Sandy Araneta
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