MANILA, Philippines - Senator Miriam Defensor Santiago said Monday that the "framework agreement" entered by the Philippine government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front would require amendments of the Constitution.
“First, it appears to me that as explicitly mentioned in the framework agreement, this agreement depends upon the amendment of our constitution. How can foreign parties have participated in negotiations that involve the amendment of our Constitution?” asked Santiago, chairman of the Senate committee on Constitutional amendments, revision or codes and laws.
“The very definition of Constitutional sovereignty is that we become independent of any other state. So I am very worried that perhaps another state, the mediator, Malaysia, or a few other states may have been participating in this negotiation, which will dictate how the Filipinos will implement a Constitutional provision on the ARMM,” Santiago added.
Santiago said that since the Philippines is under a presidential form of government, the creation of the new Bansamoro region with a parliamentary form of government would warrant the amendments to the present Constitution.
“There are at least two Constitutional amendments involved here. One is in the Bangsamoro area, there will be no presidential form of government, but a completely different form of government. That certainly will require an amendment of our Constitution,” she said.
“The second amendment that seems to be necessitated by this framework agreement is the creation of a federalized system with respect only to the Bangsamoro area,” she said.
The senator pointed out that under the agreement, the creation of a substate, as in a federal state, is contrary to what is in the Constitution which mandates that ll other local government units (LGUs) will be treated as LGUs of our presidential form of government.
“Only this particular area will be treated as sub-state,” Santiago noted.
Santiago said there is no term as “sub-state” under any law dictionary but only an “independent” state.
She also slammed the creation of the transition commission which was supposed to draft the Bangsamoro basic law.
“In the proper order of priorities, first we have to amend our Constitution on at least two aspects, the parliamentary form of government for Bangsamoro, and so-called asymmetric relationship, meaning to say it is what they call a substate or what I call as independent or non-sovereign state ,” Santiago pointed out.
Santiago said the Constitution needs to be amended before the approval of the creation of the Bangsamoro Act.
“But we have tied ourselves, the negotiators have tied our government and our hands as the Filipino public with respect to this amendment,” she said.
If Congress fails to pass this agreement, Santiago predicted that the framework agreement will then be discarded.
“That is now a subject of a treaty. Our own Constitution is being a subject of a treaty. Since when did the foreign entity or the rebel entity have power over the Constitution? We cannot even pass the so-called amendments to the economic provisions only because of the discordant voices,” she said. “So I am very, very surprised and very concerned."
Santiago noted that the context of the framework shows that the Bangsamoro state will be establishing its own government and exercise such powers except foreign policy, security and citizenship issues among others.
“If you read the context of the Bangsamoro agreement, you will see that this so-called sub-state will have power that all government exercise except the following on external defense, security and foreign policy. It cannot exercise powers over coinage and monetary policy, over citizenship and naturalization and postal service. Otherwise, it is a completely independent state," she said.
Meanwhile, Sen. Panfilo Lacson joined his colleagues in supporting the measure.
“Well we just hope na mag-hold. We all are hoping mag-hold ang preliminary agreement nila. Otherwise we’ll be back to Square One. The problem which I posited during one of the hearings, what will prevent renegade or factions of the MILF from forming another group, just like sa MNLF, nagkaroon ng MILF. Sabi nila they will consider that,” Lacson said.