MANILA – Senator Miriam Defensor Santiago urged Malacanang on Thursday to form its own committee that will review the constitutionality of the proposed Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL).
Santiago made the suggestion as she described the whole process of peace process between the Philippine government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) as unconstitutional.
”But since events have already taken place, it would be best if Malacañang form its own review committee to review the BBL for unconstitutional features instead of letting other branches of government do it for them,” Santiago said in a press conference in the Senate.
Santiago suggested that the committee be composed of the legal luminaries like those she invited when her committee on the constitutional amendments conducted hearings on the constitutionality of the BBL.
”If there are changes to be made, it will come from the Palace itself. There would be no embarrassment about being dictated to by another branch of the government,” she said.
The feisty lady lawmaker questioned the authority of President Benigno Aquino III to negotiate a separate form of government.
“What is the constitutional basis for the authority to negotiate on the part of the Philippine government? The President simply assumed he had the authority to negotiate. That is not so. The President does not have sole power over the foreign policy of the Philippines,” Santiago said.
She said Malacanang should have asked authorization from Congress, particularly from the Senate, to negotiate with the MILF or any group in Mindanao.
”The Constitution implies that the foreign policy is shared between the President on the one hand, the Senate on the other,” the lawmaker explained.
The lady senator also questioned if the MILF has the authority to represent the Bangsamoro.
”Who gave the MILF authority to represent the Bangsamoro among the MNLF, MILF, BIFF and other groups that are now springing into existence? Which one shall be validly allowed to claim that it represents the Bangsamoro or the entire Islamic peoples within the Philippine territory?,” she asked.
When asked if the BBL should be scrapped all together due to questions of constitutionality, Santiago said: “It would be best if it started the process all over again.”
Santiago said putting timeline for the passage of the BBL is irrelevant.
”That’s not important. You might finish passing a bill but it will immediately go to the Supreme Court. That’s why we must take care to allow for this addendum, and it will immediately be questioned in the Supreme Court,” she explained.
She said that even if the Senate passes the BBL within this year, it is expected to be questioned before the Supreme Court (SC).
”Let’s assume it passes and it’s petitioned right away in the Supreme Court. How many months will the Supreme Court need? Nobody knows. So to say, for example, that by this year, we will have peace in Mindanao because of the peace process is misguided,” Santiago said.