Philippine arts

Miriam: Bangsamoro law can be fine-tuned; MILF can’t be trusted

Rappler.com
Miriam: Bangsamoro law can be fine-tuned; MILF can’t be trusted
Santiago maintains the proposed Bangsamoro Basic Law, which will create an autonomous region to be initially run by the MILF, is unconstitutional

 

MANILA, Philippines – Senator Miriam Defensor Santiago has taken a stronger stance against the proposed Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL).

Santiago, the first senator to call the proposed law as unconstitutional, had been open to improving the proposed measure despite the Mamasapano clash, but the constitutional expert admitted on Thursday, February 12 she had changed her position. 

In a press conference Santiago said revelations in the Senate proceedings have “changed almost completely” her attitude toward the proposed law.  

Santiago pushed through with hearings on the proposed law under her committee even after Senator Ferdinand Marcos Jr, chairman of the local government committee, cancelled his hearings following the clash in Mamasapano, Maguindanao.

Santiago, who is suffering from lung cancer, made an appearance on Day 3 of the Senate probe into the incident. 

The senator said the continuous insistence of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) that they did not coddle wanted terrorist Zulkifli bin Hir, better known as Marwan, and Abdulbasit Usman was a sign of bad faith on the part of the group.

“What is proved to me by these hearings is the lack of sincerity of the MILF in shooting down our men. Possibly with the [Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters], together, they shot down 44 Filipinos, who are all dead now. So how can you possibly deal with a negotiation partner who accepts perfidy as a mode of conduct? And I’m sure I’m not alone in taking this evolution of attitude. I’m sure many senators think the way I do,” Santiago said. 

The Bangsamoro Basic Law is a product of the peace accord between the government and the MILF signed in March 2014.  

There are 3 Senate panels tackling the bill, including the peace and reconciliation committee chaired by Senator Teofisto Guingona III. Marcos’ committee is tasked to produce the final report.  

Although she has maintained that the BBL is unconstitutional, Santiago was of the position that deliberations should continue despite the clash. But her latest statements indicate she has made a turnaround. 

We can fine-tune it, but the problem is that our dialogue partner has already proved that they cannot be trusted. They are not our enemy. Our enemies are the two terrorists. Why did they coddle the terrorists in their territory? Earlier I was telling Mr [Mohagher] Iqbal, ‘Can you say with a straight face that you are not hiding those terrorists in your territory?’ And he was still insisting on the opposite. That shows patent lack of sincerity. So, how can we pass a law to accommodate the wishes of our partner who is not in good faith?” Santiago said in a mix of English and Filipino. 

Santiago said she will release her own report on the constitutionality of the law. 

The proposed law seeks to replace the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao with a new autonomous government that is parliamentary in form. 

Most of the constitutional questions on the bill revolves around how powers will be shared between the central government and the envisioned Bangsamoro government. The new region is designed to be more powerful than the current Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao.

Santiago has maintained that the proposed law creates a sub-state, making it unconstitutional. 

“What they want to happen is to replace our Constitution to get what they want. My goodness, that is the direct opposite of constitutionalism! Everything must conform to the Constitution, no matter how stupid or ridiculous the Constitution might seem to other people, everything there, word for word, must be followed. That is constitutionalism,” Santiago said. 

In the House of Representatives, the ad hoc committee tackling the law is set to delete provisions concerning constitutional bodies as deliberations also remained stalled due to its own separate probe into the Mamasapano incident. – Angela Casauay/Rappler.com

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