Dateline Manila: Former Concon members say draft BBL conforms with 1987 Charter PDF Print E-mail
Friday, 23 January 2015 11:41

BY Sammy Santos


The recent statement of support of the surviving members of the last Constitutional Commission on the proposed Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) should serve as the tipping point in the raging debate on whether the draft law conforms to the provisions of the 1987 Philippine Constitution.

In fact, the House and Senate panels hearing the proposed BBL must heed the words of 14 former ConCom members who have publicly expressed their views and insights on the draft law and have defended its “essential constitutionality.”

In a seven-chapter position paper released to media on the week before the frenzy over the visit of Pope Francis swept the country, the former framers of the Constitution said their paper on the constitutionality of the BBL should provide “compelling arguments that can guide the lawmakers in crafting the law.”

I think no one is better suited to assess a proposed law’s conformity to the Constitution than the very people who had penned the charter. Our lawmakers who will work on the draft BBL must listen to the opinions of the ConCom members who understand the provisions of the 1987 Constitution as they were intended to be.

This statement approval and support should help resolve the noisy debates by politicians surrounding the BBL’s constitutionality.

The declarations of those who framed the Constitutions 29 years ago that the BBL actualizes, instead of violating, the highest law of the land, is a welcome development that would hopefully be instrumental in putting an end to the endless questions that impede the passage of the BBL, which is crucial to finally securing peace in Mindanao.

So-called “law experts” in media and in the private sector have already given their views on how the BBL falls within or outside the constitutional provisions on sovereignty and autonomous regions.

But none of them are better informed and suited to assess and decide on the BBL than the very people who had written that Constitution. They know better than everyone on what the provisions were supposed to mean, and what their supposed effects to our people should be.

Unlike the other voices in this debate, the ConCom framers have no underlying political intention in their arguments, apart from their desire to see the Constitution that they have worked on be properly translated into meaningful laws.

All the 14 signatories in the Jan 9 manifesto are individuals of professional repute and moral authority. A quick look at the roster- Fr. Joaquin Bernas, former Chief Justice Hilario Davide, among others- should readily convince anyone that all that these are upright people supporting an upright proposed legislation.

In a statement, Senate President Franklin Drilon urged the Senate panel hearing the BBL to invite the ConCon members to weigh in on the constitutionality of the draft law - a piece of legislation so important to government’s goal of providing lasting and genuine peace and inclusive and social development in Mindanao.

“It is our belief that the framers of the 1987 Constitution are in the best position to assess the constitutionality of the proposed Bangsamoro Basic Law and determine its conformity to the vision, spirit and core principles of the Constitution they had penned nearly three decades ago,” said Drilon of the surviving ConCom members, who also include legal luminaries and respected public figures such as former Supreme Court Justice Adolfo Azcuna, former Commission on Elections (Comelec) Chairman Christian Monsod, and former Comelec Commissioner Rene Sarmiento.

It is important that the insights of the ConCon members are considered in the debates of the BBL’s constitutionality in order to ensure that no provision in the Constitution will be violated and that the proposed law will be embrace the vision and spirit of the charter’s provision on autonomous regions.

We are told that the ConCom members have expressed their interest in taking part in the crafting of the BBL, making it easier for the Senate or the House to invite them to the hearings.

In their statement, the 14 ConCon members said that “a new organic law is necessary to fulfil the vision and spirit that constitutional provisions on autonomous regions since Republic Act No. 6734 and Republic Act No. 9054 have clearly not gone far enough to give life to the concept of autonomy for Muslim Mindanao as envisioned by the Constitution.”

They added: “The core principle of the 1987 Constitution mandating a special status for the autonomous regions is the human development of the people of Muslim Mindanao and the Cordilleras. Hence, the public conversation should not be about semantics but about people - their needs, their aspirations, their choices - and about e powering them with the environment and institutional framework for social justice.”

We agreed with the ConCom members’ views that the ultimate welfare and development of the people of Mindanao should be given more focus, saying further that this can be the guiding principle in the crafting of the law.

As Drilon said in his statement, “the establishment of the Bangsamoro government will be a significant milestone in our nation’s history as it will be formed to serve and uphold the interests of the Bangsamoro people, culture, and history.”

The Concon members pointed out that the proposed BBL must be viewed in the context of the core principle of the 1986 Constitution when it mandated a special status for the autonomous regions in Mindanao and tin the Cordilleras: “It was always about human development of the people of these areas, and the question we should ask instead is that if the proposed law can adequately address this goal,” they said.

Need we say more?