Philconsa to SC: BOL will 'destroy country, dismember territories'

The Philippine Constitution Association has warned the Bangsamoro Organic Law will destroy the country and dismember its territories, and asked the Supreme Court to declare the landmark legislation unconstitutional.

Philconsa filed its 37-page petition questioning the passage of Republic Act 11054 or the BOL on Dec. 11, a full copy of which was only made available to the media on Thursday.

In related developments:

• Bangsamoro Transition Commission chairperson Ghadzali Jaafar has called on the Commission on Elections and the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process to ensure a fraud-free plebiscite for the BOL set next month. 

Jaafar made the appeal during the signing of the memorandum of agreement between the Comelec, OPAPP and the BTC for an intensified information drive on what the BOL was and how the BOL referendum would be conducted.

The BOL provides that the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao will be replaced by the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region governed by the Bangsamoro Parliament elected by the Bangsamoro Region’s inhabitants.

The BOL also grants the Bangsamoro Region 5 percent of the net national internal revenue collection of the Bureau of Internal Revenue and the Bureau of Customs as block grant, on top of the at least P5 billion worth of Special Development Fund for the Bangsamoro Region every year for the next 10 years, starting 2019.

• The Commission on Elections said those who would vote in the plebiscite for or against the BOL ratification would not need identification cards to be able to cast their vote.

Comelec spokesperson James Jimenez made the clarification during the signing of the memorandum of agreement between the Comelec, the OPAPP, and the BTC for an intensified information drive on the BOL and how the BOL referendum would be conducted.

• A think tank said Friday land distribution in the Bangsamoro was one of the most “critical issues” local groups and indigenous tribes were considering a month before they cast their votes in a plebiscite that would determine the region’s autonomy.

Under the BOL, the cadastration of land, the allocation of ancestral lands and the designation of public lands will be determined by the Bangsamoro Transition Authority that would be headed by Moro Islamic Liberation Front chairman Murad Ebrahim.

“There are certain concerns of indigenous peoples groups about land that is being contested by Maguindanaoan settlers who left during the height of war against the Ilagas in the 1960s and 1970s and they might want to go back to reclaim their land,” Francisco Lara, senior adviser of the peace advocacy group International Alert, told ANC’s Early Edition.

“They have to reassure people, assuage those concerns with the indigenous peoples,” Lara said.

The Philconsa plea “seeks to avert the destruction of the Republic of the Philippines, the dismemberment of its territory, the fragmentation of its people, the despoliation of its natural and human resources, and the wreckage of its tripartite system of government.”

Impleaded were the Senate, represented by Senate President Vicente Sotto III, the House of Representatives, represented by House Speaker Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, and the Office of the President, represented by Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdea.

Philconsa is a non-stock, non-profit association founded by former President Sergio Osmeña 57 years ago to “defend, protect and preserve” the Constitution. Among those who signed the petition were retired Court of Appeals Presiding Justice Manuel Lazaro and lawyer Rodolfo Reyes.

This is the second petition filed against the BOL, which President Rodrigo Duterte signed in July.

In October, Sulu Governor Abdusakur Tan II also filed a petition against the BOL.

The group urged the high court to issue a temporary restraining order and a writ of preliminary injunction to prevent the implementation of the BOL.

Philconsa argued the 1987 Constitution only recognized one autonomous region in Muslim Mindanao. 

“When R.A. 11054 abolished the ARMM and created the BARMM, a new and distinct territorial and political subdivision in lieu thereof, without first amending the Constitution, respondent’s legislative and executive departments violated and/or amended Sec. 1, Art. X of the Constitution, without jurisdiction or authority, with grave abuse of discretion tantamount to lack of and/or in excess of jurisdictions,” it said. 

It added: “The legislative and the executive departments, creations of the Constitution, must observe and stand beside the Constitution and not act above, defy or supplant it.” 

According to the group, the creation of a Bangsamoro political entity is contrary to the Constitution which created only provinces, cities, municipalities and barangays, and autonomous regions in Muslim Mindanao and the Cordilleras, calling BAR an “interloper” or a “stranger.” 

The group also called out the grant of legislative powers to the Bangsamoro parliament, such as the power to grant tax exemptions and incentives, to create government-owned and controlled corporations, and to declare nature reserves, aquatic parks, forests, watershed reservations and other protected areas—powers which are reserved to Congress.

The group also questioned a BOL provision giving the Bangsamoro parliament the power to enact laws governing commercial and other civil actions not provided under the Code of Muslim Personal Law, as well as criminal jurisdiction over minor offenses. 

It noted that the Constitution only gives special courts like the Shariah court jurisdiction over personal, family and property laws. 

Philconsa also objected to the grant of powers to the Bangsamoro parliament to enter into trade relations with foreign countries and to contract foreign loans.

Under the Constitution, the group said, these powers belonged solely to the President. 

Philconsa also said the BOL violated the equal protection clause for its provision allowing national taxes like documentary stamp, donor’s and estate taxes to go straight to the Bangsamoro government, putting it at an “unjustified advantage” over other regions.

It also found an issue with the creation of a Bangsamoro Economic and Development Council, which it said was contrary to a constitutional provision declaring NEDA as the independent planning agency of the government.

Topics: Philippine Constitution Association , Supreme Court , Bangsamoro Organic Law , Bangsamoro Economic and Development Council , Supreme Court
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