What is important at this point is to avert a full-fledged constitutional crisis that could adversely affect the peace process and the rule of law in the province as well as in BARMM
Separation of powers is a political doctrine that aims to keep separate the three branches of government: executive, legislative and judicial.
This is also known as a system of checks and balances, with each branch given certain powers to check and balance the other branches.
The principle of separation of powers seeks to avoid one group having all the power and prevent arbitrary excesses by government.
The 1987 Constitution follows this doctrine by defining the powers of the three branches of our government.
But what if one branch encroaches on the powers of another? In that event, there’s likely to be a Constitutional crisis, with government unable to move or make a decision unless one side gives way to the other.
We have such a situation right now in the recent ruling by the Supreme Court declaring Acting Governor Fatima Ainee Sinsuat as the only one rightful governor of Maguindanao del Norte.
But President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. has also appointed Adulraof Macacua to the position of governor of the province.
The clash between the judicial and executive branches is well in evidence in this case.
There’s a third element involved here, however, which is the legislature.
The Supreme Court, through Associate Justice Amy Lazaro-Javier, pointed out “it would be absurd and contrary to the intent of Congress and the will of the sovereign constituents of the new provinces to interpret the law in a way that unduly and unreasonably delays its operation and corporate existence.”
Here, the High Court interpreted the law passed by Congress creating the two Maguindanao provinces.
What it basically said is the President’s appointment of Macacua as Governor of Maguindanao del Norte goes against the intent of Congress and the sovereign will of the people of the province.
While the President has the power to appoint officials, it is important to bear in mind the Judiciary’s role is to interpret and uphold the law.
If the decision of the Supreme Court is ignored by the Executive branch, the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao or BARMM, as well as by Mr. Macacua himself, this could be a dangerous precedent that would undermine the time-honored principle of separation of powers and the rule of law.
But who is Adulraof A. Macacua?
He recently became a member of the President’s political party, the Partido Federal ng Pilipinas.
He was also known as Sammy Gamba when he was still the Chief-of-Staff of the Bangsamoro Islamic Armed Forces (BIAF), the armed component of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF).
The government and MILF concluded a comprehensive peace agreement years ago that led to creation of the BARMM.
Given Macacua’s background and recent affiliation with the President Marcos’ political party, his appointment as Governor of Maguindanao del Norte has raised concern as to whether he is committed to uphold the Constitution and serve the best interests of the people in the province.
After all, as a former leader of a rebel group that once engaged the government in armed hostilities for many years, could he be relied upon to maintain the stability and integrity of democratic institutions in the province, particularly in those areas where the wounds of armed conflict have yet to be completely healed?
Does Malacañang’s appointment of Macacua also intend to send the message he is the most competent to lead the province because of his military background?
Maguindanao del Norte is where Camp Iranun is. It used to be called Camp Abubakar, and was the largest MILF camp before being captured by the armed forces during the Estrada administration, if I’m not mistaken.
Several other major MILF camps—Camp Darapanan, Camp Omar—are also in the province. As a former MILF leader, Macacua can easily gain the support of the people in former camps of the rebel group.
The Supreme Court decision to declare Acting Governor Sinsuat as the rightful holder of the top political office in the province could be considered a clear assertion of the Judiciary’s independence.
But it could also upset the delicate balance between the Executive and Judiciary branches of government.
What is important at this point is to avert a full-fledged constitutional crisis that could adversely affect the peace process and the rule of law in the province as well as in BARMM.
The Executive and Judicial branches of government should strive to meet halfway and iron out differences in perspectives, especially since the region needs to consolidate the gains already made in the peace process and to strengthen self-rule after decades of armed conflict.
It would be a pity if the political situation in Maguindanao del Norte deteriorates and causes uncertainty and doubt on the future of the province and BARMM as a whole.
What Maguindanao del Norte needs is stability and good governance.
The Executive and Judicial branches should get their act together and thresh out issues so that the rule of law is upheld not only in Maguindanao del Norte but also in the whole of Southern Philippines.