Bangsamoro (MNS Photo)

Bangsamoro (MNS Photo)

MANILA  (Mabuhay) – Two former magistrates of the Supreme Court are split over the constitutionality of the proposed Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL).

Appearing as resource persons before an inquiry of a House committee, former Associate Justice Adolfo Azcuna said the BBL was constitutional while former Associate Justice Vicente Mendoza said the measure was “beyond the power of Congress to pass.”

Azcuna told lawmakers at the ad hoc panel hearing on the proposed BBL Tuesday that while the Bangsamoro bill could be considered as “out of the box,” it was not unconstitutional.

“The proposed law’s preamble states it’s in consonance with the Constitution. This should lay to rest the concerns that the bill does not mention the Constitution at all,” he said.

Azcuna said the asymmetrical relationship the Bangsamoro would have with the national government was likewise acceptable as long as the parameters of the Constitution were followed.

The Bangsamoro region is envisioned to have a status distinct from that of local government units under the proposed BBL, otherwise known as House Bill 4994.

But for Mendoza, the special status of the Bangsamoro vis-à-vis the national government could not be used to justify the provisions of the proposed BBL.

“Such relationship cannot justify the recognition of the right of the Bangsamoro people to ‘self-determination, to chart their political future’ without impairing the sovereignty and territorial integrity of the Philippines,” Mendoza said.

The two retired Supreme Court Justices were among the legal luminaries invited to share their legal opinion on the proposed measure, which would formalize the creation of the new political entity that will replace the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM).

Mendoza questioned the reference of the proposed BBL to the Bangsamoro region as “a territory” and as the “ancestral homeland” of the Bangsamoro people since it is supposedly contrary to the Constitution, which considers the autonomous region to be a part of Philippine territory.

A provision in the bill recognizing the Bangsamoro people’s “right to self-determination… to chart their political future” further reinforces the notion that the Bangsamoro is a separate political entity, although under Philippine jurisdiction, Mendoza said.

“Such a political entity is only a little different from the ‘associative state’ called Bangsamoro Juridical Entity in the MOA-AD invalidated by the Supreme Court in 2008,” Mendoza said. (MNS)