Framers of Constitution back Bangsamoro law
Cherry Salazar (The Philippine Star) - January 13, 2015 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines - Fourteen of 18 surviving members of the 1986 Constitutional Commission believe the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro (CAB) and the proposed Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) can fulfill the vision and spirit that guided the original 48 framers of the Constitution to draft the provision on autonomous regions.

The 14 are Felicitas Aquino-Arroyo, retired Supreme Court (SC) justice Adolfo Azcuna, Bishop Teodoro Bacani, Fr. Joaquin Bernas, Florangel Rosario Braid, retired chief justice Hilario Davide Jr., Edmundo Garcia, Jose Luis Martin Gascon, retired elections chairman Christian Monsod, Ricardo Romulo, retired election commissioner Rene Sarmiento, Jaime Tadeo, Wilfrido Villacorta and Bernardo Villegas.

“Reason tells us that Bangsamoro Autonomous Region can close the centuries-old gap between law and justice and that we are on the cusp of a historic opportunity to make it happen,” they said.

The 14 surviving framers of the Constitution lamented that negotiations on the peace agreement have dragged on for 17 years, and that even after nearly three decades since the approval and implementation of the Constitution, “the promise of genuine social change has not unfolded.”

They cited a report defining the Bangsamoro as a historically and culturally separate nation.

Its fusion with the majority of Filipinos is “workable only under a framework of political autonomy,” they added.

They said Republic Acts 6734 and 9054 creating the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) have not gone “far enough” to provide autonomy for Muslim Mindanao as envisioned in the Constitution.

“The larger context of the CAB and the proposed BBL is our failure to effectively address the longest running insurgency and development of our peoples, especially those of Muslim Mindanao,” they said.

Article XIII, Section 16 of the Constitution states, “The right of the people and their organizations to effective and reasonable participation at all levels of social, political and economic decision-making shall not be abridged.”

They urged the administration to commit itself to bring about the fruition of the peace process “because it is the shared vision of a nation.”

“Let us set aside partisan politics and stop the urge to exhibit our ability to find nuances of legalism that can delay, or worse, derail the process,” they said.

The other four surviving members of the 1986 Constitutional Commission are either bed-ridden or could not be reached.

Nuncio praises pact with MILF

Papal Nuncio (Holy See ambassador) Archbishop Guiseppe Pinto commended yesterday the government’s peace agreement with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) to set up a Bangsamoro political entity in Mindanao, as well as the improved system of relief efforts in typhoon-hit areas.

During the vin d’honneur that President Aquino hosted in Malacañang yesterday, the dean of the diplomatic corps hailed the administration’s move to replace the ARMM with the Bangsamoro political entity through a comprehensive peace agreement signed in March 2014.

“Certainly, a process of consultation as well as an honest and transparent dialogue among stakeholders will facilitate a positive outcome of the legislative work,” he said.

As to Typhoon Ruby last Dec. 6, Pinto said an effective response of prevention met its destructive force, resulting in a significant reduction in the number of victims.

“Mr. President, the commitment of your government to restore a dignified life to the people affected by calamities continues with greater assurances,” Pinto said, lifting a quote from Aquino’s July 2014 State of the Nation Address about more work to be done.

“When hostile nature forces sow pain and discouragement, the desire to start over becomes stronger, unity between individuals and groups increases and unthought-of goals can be achieved.”

Pinto made a toast to the annual celebration of renewal of ties among local leaders and the international community.

He also looked forward to the arrival of Pope Francis on Thursday afternoon for a five-day visit, and the yearly Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit in Manila in November.

He described the two occasions as “extraordinary events.”

He thanked Aquino, Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert del Rosario and his “collaborators” for their “valued assistance in our work.”

“And to all those who share with you (Aquino) the honor and responsibility of the government of the Philippines, the diplomatic corps conveys its fervent wishes to see the fruits of their labors for the benefit of their fellow citizens,” he said.

A welcome move

Government chief negotiator Miriam Coronel-Ferrer welcomed Sen. Miriam Defensor-Santiago’s call for the holding of hearings on the proposed BBL.

She shares Santiago’s desire to give life to the Constitution’s mandate for meaningful autonomy in the South, she added.

Santiago heads the Senate committee on constitutional amendments and revision of codes.

She is set to conduct the first committee hearing on the draft law, also known as Senate Bill 2804, on Jan. 26 and Feb. 2.

Ferrer said the envisioned Bangsamoro political entity is intended to serve as the living manifestation of the constitutional mandate for “meaningful autonomy” for Muslim Mindanao.

The government peace panel had affirmed in dialogues with various stakeholders that the CAB with the MILF aims to establish a Bangsamoro region exercising genuine autonomy while remaining part of the Philippines, and not be an independent state.

Ferrer said the creation of the Bangsamoro region will realize the mandate of the Constitution for “social justice for our brothers and sisters who have historically been marginalized politically, culturally and socially.”

“I believe the wise senator shares our basic objective of giving life to these elements of our Constitution that have not been fully or effectively realized, and would need to be in accord with current needs and realities,” she said.

Ferrer said the proposed law can be effectively remedied through the fine-tuning of language or formulations.

“This can happen without diminishing the substance or purpose that have been set out in the CAB,” she said.

“In this regard, we look up to the best of the best of our legislators for guidance and wisdom.”

For his part, Yes for Peace convenor Ernesto Alcanzare took the opportunity to thank Pope Francis for “taking the role of a Peace Ambassador and visiting conflict areas around the world as well as praying for peace.”

In an open letter, Alcanzare wrote that some 11 million Filipinos have thus far responded to the Yes for Peace – Bayanihan para sa KKK (Kapayapaan, Kaunlaran at Kasaganahan) call for the permanent cessation of hostilities between the government and all armed groups; conduct of peace negotiations here in the Philippines instead of abroad; and Bayanihan (collective involvement and participation) for the implementation and programs and projects to be agreed upon in open and participatory peace talks. – With Delon Porcalla, Jose Rodel Clapano, Edith Regalado

ADOLFO AZCUNA AQUINO ARCHBISHOP GUISEPPE PINTO ASIA-PACIFIC ECONOMIC COOPERATION BANGSAMORO CONSTITUTION CONSTITUTIONAL COMMISSION MUSLIM MINDANAO PEACE POPE FRANCIS
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