MANILA, Philippines – It’s one of the reasons why the Supreme Court nullified the Memorandum of Agreement on Ancestral Domain (MOA-AD) in 2008: it “guaranteed” constitutional amendments when changing the Constitution is beyond the powers of the president.
The now scrapped MOA-AD, crafted under the term of then President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, would have supposedly created the Bangsamoro Juridical Entity. It would have expanded the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao to include at least 8 barangays in Zamboanga City and around 700 more other barangays in North Cotabato, Basilan, and Palawan.
Fast forward to 4 years, here comes the “2012 Framework on the Bangsamoro Agreement” under the administration of President Benigno Aquino III. The framework aims to replace ARMM with Bangsamoro, a political entity that will have a ministerial government.
Among the country’s highest paid lawyers, Estelito Mendoza raised concerns on Wednesday, October 17, that the new Framework Agreement on the Bangsamoro — signed on October 16 — also makes it necessary for the government to amend the 1987 Constitution.
In a letter to the Philippine Daily Inquirer, Mendoza wrote that Par.VII (4) (b) of the agreement provides that the Transition Commission will “work on proposals to amend the Philippine Constitution for the purpose of accommodating and entrenching in the constitution the agreements of the Parties whenever necessary without derogating from any prior peace agreements.”
He said that this leads to the question that “whether when the agreement is executed in behalf of the Philippine government, the government becomes bound to have the Constitution amended to accommodate the agreement of the parties whenever necessary.”
He added that in the event the amendments are not ratified, “the government or the Republic itself will be deemed to have violated the agreement.”
Still up to Congress
Marvic Leonen, chief peace negotiator, said that this is not the case, however, because the president “did not guarantee the acceptance of the proposals.”
He added that contrary to what Mendoza said, the government “is not bound” to have the charter amended. “It’s clear that the transition commission can only make recommendations, but it is up to Congress to dispose.”
Making constitutional amendments is one of the tricky provisions in the MOA-AD — paragraph 7 under the Governance part of the agreement gave the SC a reason to strike down the MOA-AD as unconstitutional in 2008.
In 2008, the SC said that, “Given the limited nature of the President’s authority to propose constitutional amendments, she cannot guarantee to any third party that the required amendments will eventually be put in place, nor even be submitted to a plebiscite.”
The BJE then under the MOA-AD would have had an “associative” relationship with the national government, enabling it to enter into economic agreements and establish trade relations with other countries — presently not allowed under the Constitution.
Constitutional amendments, the SC said, fall within the province of Congress, which can “propose the recommended amendments or revision to the people, call a constitutional convention, or submit to the electorate the question of calling such a convention.”
Meanwhile, Mendoza also took issues with Paragraph I (4) of the framework, which states that “the relationship of the Central Government with the Bangsamoro Government shall be asymmetric.”
He said “asymmetric” is not a legal term, adding that it denotes “lack of proportion, ill-proportioned, not symmetrical.”
Leonen said the framework is not a strictly “legal agreement,” however, but a political one. He clarified that this means the Bangsamoro government is not equal to the national government and is different from a province. – Rappler.com
Read the full text of the Framework Agreement between the Philippine government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) on the establishment of the new autonomous political entity, Bangsamoro, that will replace the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM).
For related stories, read:
- BIFM insists on separate Bangsamoro state
- Leonen: Let’s debate the Bangsamoro deal
- MILF plans to form party
- Mixed feelings on the roadmap to peace
- FAQs: Bangsamoro peace deal