FIRST PERSON - Alex Magno (The Philippine Star) - August 17, 2015 - 10:00am

For all intents and purposes, we can declare dead the Bangsamoro Basic Law – at least the one that approximates the terms set forth in the possibly illegal “comprehensive agreement” between this administration and the MILF.

At the House of Representatives, no quorum could be mustered each time the proposed Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) is calendared for plenary debate. That is a measure of the level of enthusiasm of legislators in that chamber for this awkward piece of legislation.

It is also an indication of the political dilemma of the congressmen. Under great pressure from the Palace to pass a bill their constituents dislike, the politicians in this chamber choose absence as the only viable option.

The majority congressmen, as I pointed out in this space a month ago, have been playing a naughty game with their President. They kept feeding him reassuring scenarios even as they prepared to administer the last rites on the BBL. It was likely a profitable game for them.

Only President Aquino, ensconced in his separate universe, thinks his pet bill will pass in a form he might still find recognizable. He pursued this MILF-induced idea of some sort of a “substate” with such passion the negotiations systematically excluded all stakeholders apart from the MILF. That proved to be a fatal mistake.

The last nail on the BBL was driven last week at the Senate.

In his best performance at the Senate thus far, Sen. Bongbong Marcos delivered a remarkable sponsorship speech for his version of what he chose to call The Bangsamoro Autonomous Region.

The speech clearly outlined the merits of the alternative draft his committee offered. It compellingly argued the demerits of the Palace-drafted BBL. The speech was garnished with exemplary rhetoric and garbed in fine prose.

This has to be the best speech ever delivered in the intellectually-challenged Aquino II years. This is the quality of policy and political argumentation we so sorely miss, having been subjected to the sloppy and mentally dishonest speeches President Aquino delivers almost as a chore.

 Sen. Marcos’ speech took to the commanding heights that statesmen must view things. He summoned the ethics of political inclusion every democracy should nourish. He went extensively into the viability of every proposed administrative structure. Peace can only be sustained by viable administrative arrangements.

The committee report Marcos sponsors is supported by the signatures of a majority of the senators. Those with any reservations about the committee report actually take a harder line against the idea of a special political arrangement with the MILF.

Any bill that might emanate from the House should match the serious thought that was put into the Marcos report. It should at least approximate the eloquence with which the Marcos report was delivered.

On this consideration alone, might congressmen shy from passing anything – for fear of suffering by comparison.

My father-in-law, political law expert Bartolome C. Fernandez, is preparing a brief that elegantly dismisses any legislation for anything to replace the ARMM. In a nutshell, the existing autonomous region was created by an organic act applying a clear provision in the Constitution. That organic act cannot be dismissed by mere legislation.

I agree. On that argument alone, all the time and effort invested in the BBL is pointless.


In just four days, 15,000 Palawenos from all walks of life have signed a manifesto supporting a petition asking the Supreme Court to rule on the legality of the second panel formed by the DOJ to review the Gerry Ortega murder case.

Recall that the first DOJ panel dismissed charges implicating former governor Joel Reyes and his brother Mario in the murder. The second DOJ panel formed by Justice Secretary de Lima referred to some “new evidence” offered by the wife of the murder victim. Whatever that “new evidence” is, the panel never disclosed.

Supporters of the Reyes brothers could not believe their former governor would be capable of the crime attributed to him. They believe crafty politicians in a province notorious for its local politics caused the brothers to be framed.

The Court of Appeals already ruled against the validity of the “second panel.” That ruling has been ignored by the DOJ – an agency that, under de Lima, became so highly politicized it is parodied as the “Department of Injustice.”

Only a ruling by the Supreme Court sustaining the view of the Appeals Court can compel the imperious Justice Secretary to reconsider the recommendations of the “second DOJ panel.” Otherwise, the Reyes brothers, avoiding more injustice related to this case, will remain in hiding. The family of victim Gerry Ortega will have no closure to a murder with so many possible angles.

The first DOJ panel found no probable cause to charge the Reyes brothers. The second DOJ panel, apparently organized precisely to reverse the findings of the first, reversed the position of the first panel without sufficient ground to do so. There is injustice in every aspect here.

Since it is the actions of the DOJ itself that has come under question here, only the Supreme Court might have sufficient credibility to render a superior assessment of how due process was observed (or ignored) in this case.

In Puerto Princesa, there is no lack of conspiracy theories peddled regarding this high-profile murder. Without a more thorough, more competent and more independent assessment of the facts of the case, the conspiracy theories will continue to fester.

That will bring no rest to the grieving family of the victim as well as to those who might be innocent of the crime assigned to them.


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