Bangsamoro deal unconstitutional, Miriam says

Posted at 04/02/14 9:07 PM

MANILA - The Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro (CAB) between the Philippine government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) is unconstitutional, Senator Miriam Defensor Santiago said Wednesday.

Santiago, during her speech at the commencement exercises of Gordon College in Olongapo City, said the peace deal is is unconstitutional because it allegedly violates the principle of constitutional supremacy.

She said Constitution only allows an autonomous region and not a substate that will exercise sovereign powers reserved only for the central government.

Santiago, a former professor of constitutional law at the University of the Philippines, cited the 2012 Framework Agreement on the Bangsamoro, which is part of the CAB.

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.

Santiago listed the reasons why she believes that the Bangsamoro will turn into a substate:

a. The powers of the central government shall be determined by the Agreement, thus turning Bangsamoro into a substate.

b. The Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao, which is provided for by the Constitution, will be abolished by mere agreement with the MILF, which is not surprising if you consider that the Bangsamoro will become a substate.

c. Allocation to the Bangsamoro of all powers exercised by the national government over local government units.

d. Although the Constitution provides that natural resources belong to the state, in the Bangsamoro territory, only the Bangsamoro will have exclusive jurisdiction over natural resources.

e. The Annex on Power Sharing gives to Bangsamoro so-called "exclusive powers," which is defined as a tautology, as "powers or matters over which authority and jurisdiction pertain to the Bangsamoro government."

f. Only the Bangsamoro shall be under a ministerial form of government, while the rest of the country will operate under a presidential form of government.

g. The Agreement in Part 7, para. 4, subpara (b) enumerates the functions of the Transition Commission which at present is reportedly drafting the Bangsamoro Basic Law. One of the functions of the Transition Commission is as follows: "To work on proposals to amend the Philippine Constitution for the purpose of amending and enriching in the Constitution the agreements of the Parties whenever necessary without derogating from any prior peace agreement."

"I could be removed as chair of the Senate committee on constitutional amendments. But while I am chair, it will be extremely difficult to convince me, as a student of constitutional law, that the Bangsamoro Agreement respects the Philippine Constitution. On the contrary: The Agreement violates the principle of constitutional supremacy," Santiago said.

Palace defends Bangsamoro deal

Malacanang, however, rebutted Santiago's criticism of the CAB.

“We respect Senator Santiago’s views. We affirm that throughout the Philippines-MILF negotiations on the CAB, the Philippine panel was guided by one basic principle: that all provisions of the agreement must be consistent with the Constitution," Presidential Communications Secretary Sonny Coloma said on Wednesday.

"Members of Congress will have the opportunity to review the proposed Bangsamoro basic law once the draft bill is submitted for their deliberations," he added. - with a report from RG Cruz, ABS-CBN News