Bangsamoro deal constitutional, peace negotiator says

Posted at 04/03/2014 12:46 AM | Updated as of 04/03/2014 12:46 AM

MANILA – Government peace panel chair Miriam Coronel-Ferrer on Wednesday assured Senator Miriam Defensor-Santiago that the peace agreement signed with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) is within the framework of the 1987 Constitution.

This, after the senator claimed that the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro (CAB) between the Philippine government and the MILF allegedly violates the principle of constitutional supremacy.

“Accordingly, the roadmap set by the CAB leads to Congress as the established lawmaking institution,” Coronel-Ferrer said in a statement.

Santiago, during her speech at the commencement exercises of Gordon College in Olongapo City on Wednesday, said the Constitution only allows an autonomous region and not a substate that will exercise sovereign powers reserved only for the central government.

Coronel-Ferrer said, meanwhile, they will seek a meeting with Santiago and other legislators to extensively discuss the different provisions in the CAB and to allow for a deeper understanding of the context and substance of the documents.

“The honorable senator is a brilliant professor and an expert in constitutional law. We certainly appreciate her insights and opinion on the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro,” Ferrer said.

According to Ferrer, they are still waiting for the Bangsamoro Transition Commission to finish its draft bill on the Bangsamoro that will be endorsed by the President to Congress.

"The Bangsamoro Basic Law, as enacted by Congress, shall serve as the organic act for the autonomous region in Muslim Mindanao provided for in the 1987 Constitution," she said.

Santiago said the 2012 Framework Agreement on the Bangsamoro, which is part of the CAB, is unconstitutional.

She said the agreement's Part 7, para. 4, subpara. (b), states that one of the functions of the Transition Commission is the following: "To work on proposals to amend the Philippine Constitution for the purpose of accommodating and entrenching in the Constitution the agreements of the Parties whenever necessary without derogating from any prior past agreements."

"Say again?! Whaaat?! The Agreement embodies the consent of the executive branch to amend the Philippine Constitution, in order to accommodate the Agreement!" Santiago said.

The provision is "beyond ridiculous," she added.

"The basic function of a constitution is to list the powers of the state and to list the rights of the citizens. The constitution is a list of sovereign powers that are reserved for the government, meaning to say, all the three branches. This is the principle of constitutional supremacy. It is beyond ridiculous to state that the Philippine Constitution should accommodate the agreements of the Parties whenever necessary," she explained.

Santiago said preliminary studies show that the agreement has provisions similar to those in the Memorandum of Agreement on Ancestral Domain (MOA-AD) that the Supreme Court previously declared as unconstitutional.

"Both the MOA-AD and the Bangsamoro Agreement appear to facilitate the secession of the Bangsamoro from our country, in a manner similar to the secession of Kosovo and Crimea," she claimed. -- With a report from RG Cruz, ABS-CBN News