3 Bangsamoro governors question BARMM’s local governance code before SC

Ferdinandh Cabrera

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3 Bangsamoro governors question BARMM’s local governance code before SC

BARMM provincial governors and other officials during an August 2023 meeting with the region's chief minister, Ahod Balawag "Al Haj Murad" Ebrahim, in Davao City.

Three governors ask the Supreme Court to invalidate the region's local governance code and issue a status quo ante order, temporary restraining order, or a writ of preliminary injunction

COTABATO, Philippines – Three provincial governors in the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM) have filed a petition before the Supreme Court (SC), challenging the constitutionality of the special Muslim-majority region’s local governance code.

The governors – Abdusakur Tan of Sulu, Mamintal Adiong of Lanao del Sur, and Mariam Mangudadatu of Maguindanao del Sur – asked the SC on Monday, February 26, to declare Bangsamoro Autonomy Act No. 49, also known as the 2023 Bangsamoro Local Government Code (BLGC), unconstitutional and invalid.

BARMM provincial governors Hadjiman Hataman Salliman of Basilan, Yshmael Sali of Tawi-Tawi, and Abdulraof Macacua of Maguindanao del Norte, did not join the petitioners.

The governors also pleaded to the SC to issue a status quo ante order, temporary restraining order, and/or a writ of preliminary injunction to halt the implementation of the BLGC.

A status quo ante order is akin to hitting a rewind button, a legal directive to restore conditions to how they were before a particular event or decision occurred, in this case, before the passage and signing of the BLGC.

The petition was supported by resolutions passed by the provincial boards of Sulu, Maguindanao del Sur, and Lanao del Sur, against the implementation of the BLGC.

The governors also claimed that they have the support of the various chapters of the League of Municipalities in the Philippines (LMP) and Liga ng mga Barangay in their respective provinces. 

In a statement, Tan, Adiong, and Mangudadatu said the BLGC contains provisions that were not only in violation of the Constitution but of the Bangsamoro Organic Law (BOL) and the Local Government Code as well.

They questioned the BLGC’s grant of power to the BARMM chief minister to investigate and adjudicate administrative cases involving local government executives, which they argue encroaches on the disciplinary authority of the President and local councils as outlined in the Constitution and the Local Government Code (LGC).

Another contentious point is the BLGC’s provision allowing the region’s chief minister to appoint holders of vacant elective positions in local governments, which they claim contradicts the authority vested in the President by the Constitution and the Local Government Code of 1991 under certain circumstances.

The governors also questioned the validity of BLGC provisions on additional disqualifications for local elective positions in the BARMM, such as failure to attend mandatory capacity-building programs and violating anti-political dynasty provisions.

 “The vague and broad definition of the BARMM regulatory authority over its constituent LGUs (local government units) in the BLGC amounts not only to the exercise by the BARMM regional government and the Chief Minister of the power of supervision but of unbridled power and control over LGUs that is abhorred by the Constitution, the BOL and the LGC,” read part of the petition.

They added, “The petition contends that the BLGC, as a subordinate law to the LGC, cannot amend the LGC’s qualifications for the election of local executives.” 

The three governors argued that under the Constitution, only Congress has the authority to define and prohibit political dynasties in elections.

Adiong, for his part, said the petition seeks to clarify the boundaries of powers between national, regional, and local governments in the region. 

“This suit is not against the BARMM leadership but an initiative to make public policies in the region clear, relevant, and effective,” said Mangudadatu.

BARMM Solicitor General Tarhata Basman told Rappler that the BLGC and other regional laws passed by the Bangsamoro parliament reflected the autonomy of the regional government, including those contested by dissenting groups.

Basman said the petition would test the powers of the region’s autonomous government.

She said, “We were expecting this to happen especially with respect to the Bangsamoro Local Governance Code where the parliament was able to introduce provisions that are not seen elsewhere in the country, relevant, and responsive to the peculiar situation of the Bangsamoro region…. What does it really mean when legislative powers are granted to a specific legislative body to enact on matters on a general subject matter?”

Basman cited the BLGC’s anti-political dynasty provision as an example, noting the absence of such a clear law passed by Congress. –

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