March 22, 2018, 7:57 am
Facebook iconTwitter iconYouTube iconGoogle+ icon

The BBL is essentially unconstitutional.

PRESIDENT Noynoy Aquino’s proposed Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) is “essentially unconstitutional” and so it cannot be passed by Congress because the establishment of a new autonomous region for Muslims in Mindanao and Sulu requires the amendment of the 1987 Constitution.

This is how members of the Senate Committee on Constitutional Amendments and Revision of Laws, chaired by Senator Miriam Defensor, described the original BBL draft submitted for approval by President Aquino to both the Senate and the House of Representatives. And this was the same conclusion arrived at by the Senate Committee on Local Governments headed by Senator Ferdinand E. Marcos, Jr., which was tasked to study the same proposal.

Both Senate committees have been conducting public hearings on the Malacañang BBL draft, which was opposed in its present form by many legal experts, including former chief justices and associate justices of the Supreme Court and other constitutionalists, who cited its numerous unconstitutional provisions.

Santiago’s committee conducted two public hearings before coming out with its report, while Marcos’ committee has been conducting hearings in Sulu, Zamboanga and other concerned Christian and Muslim groups in Mindanao. It has not submitted its own report yet. 

Santiago warned that if approved in the form Aquino and the Moro Islamic Freedom Front (MILF) want, the proposed BBL will be challenged in the Supreme Court over doubts about its constitutionality, particularly on issues of sovereignty, autonomy, the creation of a new state, and territorial integrity. Marcos, too, said that it is inevitable the original BBL bill, as drafted by Aquino’s peace panel and the
MILF’s, will be challenged before the high tribunal, and that is why his panel will ensure that its own version will withstand any constitutional challenge. 

The reports of the Marcos and the Santiago committees will either be consolidated with that of the committee on peace, unification and reconciliation chaired by Senator Teofisto Guingona III. Either way, it is
expected to form the basis of plenary debates which could take a long time to end. 

The senators can’t be rushed into “railroading” the approved of the proposed BBL in the same manner that President Aquino did to members of the Ad Hoc Committee of the House of Representatives, who all succumbed to his blandishment!


In its 27-page report, the Santiago committee found out that many provisions in the BBL draft as submitted by President Aquino suffered from “constitutional infirmities” which must be addressed by Congress. 

Congress cannot just pass the proposed BBL bill because it effectively “seeks to change certain constitutional provisions on local autonomy,” the report pointed out, citing two points that showed the constitutional flaws in BBL draft. 

First, it failed to conform to the constitutional provision for the establishment of “autonomous regions in Muslim Mindanao...within the framework of the Constitution, the national sovereignty and territorial integrity” of the Republic of the Philippines. 

Second, President Aquino, as head of the executive branch of government, appointed a peace panel to negotiate with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), resulting in the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro (CAB). Thus, the proposed BBL would be “ultra vires” (invalid) because a simple government office that negotiated with a non-government organized group cannot amend the Constitution.

The BBL bill creates an entire state within the Philippine state, the report noted. It seeks to allow the Bangsamoro government the power to diminish national sovereignty in providing it with three different kinds of powers – reserved, concurrent (it shares power with the national government) and exclusive (Bangsamoro on occasion even exercises power independently of the national government). 

The reference to the BBL as a “basic law” is questionable, the report stated, pointing out that the BBL by its own terms is intended, by those who drafted it, to have the same effect as the “constitutional law” of the territory that is designated as “Bangsamoro”, and to have the same primacy and consequences as the 1987 Constitution of the Republic of the Philippines. 

Another unconstitutional provision confers on the “Bangsamoro entity” a parliamentary form of political structure, its own security force, security force, commission on audit, commission on elections and trial courts, which give it the features of a new state, with powers normally reserved for the national government. 

Still another questionable provision provides that “the creation of the autonomous region shall be effective when approved by majority of the vote cast by the constituent units in a plebiscite called for the purpose, provided that only provinces, cities and geographic areas voting favorably in such plebiscite shall be included in the autonomous region”, instead of a nationwide plebiscite in which the entire Filipino people can vote on such a proposed law with its far-reaching national consequences.

Indeed, a nationwide plebiscite will no doubt let all Filipinos– Christians, Muslims and Indigenous People alike – decide if the proposed BBL is truly a final chance for peace in Mindanao and the Sulu archipelago. 

There are so many other questionable provisions in Aquino’s BBL proposal which should be scrutinized thoroughly by both houses of Congress. 


Significantly, a former Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, along with a former secretary of the Department of the Interior and Local Governments, and a former ambassador of the Philippines, are against the approval by Congress of the President’s proposed BBL.

Apart from the BBL’s constitutional flaws, former Chief Justice Reynato Puno warned that BBL could lead to a national crisis, whether or not it becomes law. “Regardless of the outcome,” Puno said, “the BBL cannot guarantee peace in Mindanao and Sulu. If Congress passes the BBL as proposed by Malacañang, it will most likely be questioned before the Supreme Court. If it is found unconstitutional, that would put the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) in a quandary.”

The prospects for peace will be uncertain because it did not include all stakeholders in Mindanao and Sulu, Puno pointed out. “You could have disorder, especially with the presence of different groups with different agendas, including radical ones, and it could also inspire other regions of the country to demand similar treatment and privileges accorded the MILF, which could mean problems throughout the country... The BBL is a wake-up call for us to address the country’s problems by re-examining the whole Constitution.”

Former Secretary of the Interior and Local Governments Rafael Alunan III said the Bangsamoro Basic Law, as drafted, will not work because it is “a veiled attempt at usurping the Constitution.” He pointed out that “Basic Law” means “constitution” and “Bangsamoro” means “nation or state”. The Philippines cannot have two nations with two constitutions, he stressed. 

Former Philippine Ambassador to Rome Jose Romero also doubted the validity of the proposed BBL. He came out with the startling revelation that it was actually drafted in Kuala Lumpur “by some of the best and brightest Malaysian legal minds, probably schooled in my alma mater Cambridge or Oxford, who belong to the fraternity that took away Sabah from us in the sixties, and now have become the mentors of the MILF.”

No wonder, in the words of Senator Santiago, the foremost constitutionalist in the Senate, President Aquino’s BBL has “many insidious doubts on its constitutionality”. 


The writing on the wall has been written all along from the time President Aquino stumbled into Malacañang Palace five years ago up to the present time and until he departs when his six-year-term ends on June 30, 2016. 

Aquino has mangled the Constitution (which, by the way, was ratified in 1987 during the presidency of his mother Cory Conjuangco Aquino) and other laws of the land, spewed his vindictive ire against his perceived political enemies, and showed his incompetent governance in tackling national and foreign policy issues, especially the simmering disputes with China in the South China Sea and the West Philippine Sea, and his proposed BBL, which would lead to the balkanization or dismemberment of the Republic of the Philippines. 

It is a true shame that Aquino will leave a shallow legacy when he ends his inglorious presidency in 2016. But it wouldn’t matter any longer because he is now a “lame duck”, which is a nice term to say that his political influence is vanishing fast!


Thought of the Day: “The principles of a Constitution are irrevocably lost when the legislative power is exercised by the executive!” --- Anon.
Average: 4 (3 votes)

Column of the Day

Realities of aging

By PHILIP S. CHUA | March 22,2018
‘We no longer have any excuse not to maximize our health and longevity.’

Opinion of the Day

CenterLaw voids Duterte’s decision

By NESTOR MATA | March 22, 2018
‘The Center for International Law (CenterLaw) voids Duterte’s decision to withdraw from the UNCHR and ICC.’