SC junks petitions vs Bangsamoro agreements

MANILA, Philippines – The Supreme Court (SC) on Tuesday, November 29, dismissed petitions challenging the constitutionality of two agreements that would allow the creation of a Bangsamoro region to replace the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM).

During its en banc session, the SC ruled that the petitions against the Framework Agreement on the Bangsamoro (FAB) and the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro (CAB) are premature because the Bangsamoro Basic Law has not yet been passed.

“Until a Bangsamoro Basic Law is passed by Congress, it is clear that there is no actual case or controversy that requires the Court to exercise its power of judicial review over a co-equal branch of government,” the SC said. 

While there are pending bills in Congress, the High Court said its power of judicial review cannot be exercised over these proposed measures until they have been passed into law.

“The power of judicial review over an act of Congress comes into play only after the passage of a bill, not before,” the SC said. 

The petitions were filed by the the Philippines Constitution Association (Philconsa), Tanggulang Demokrasya, Rev. Vicente Libradores Aquino et al, Jacinto Paras, and Rev. Elly Velez Pamatong.

Under former president Benigno Aquino III, the Philippine government signed the Framework Agreement on the Bangsamoro in 2012, and the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro in 2014, a product of negotiations between the government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF). 

The signing of the peace deal was to be followed by the crafting and passage of the Bangsamoro Basic Law, which would create a new regional government with greater fiscal and political powers than the current ARMM.

The law, however, has yet to be passed by Congress.

In its petition, Philconsa argued that the 2 agreements grant "unconscionable" financial, social, economic, and political benefits to the MILF. (INFOGRAPHIC: The Bangsamoro peace deal at a glance)

The petitioners said the peace process with the MILF violated Executive Order No. 125, which requires the presence of a panel of advisers composed of one each from the Senate, the House of Representatives, and the Cabinet to be designated by the President.  

They also accused chief government negotiator Miriam Coronel Ferrer and former government peace panel chief and now SC Associate Justice Marvic Leonen of grave abuse of discretion. The petitioners said the two allegedly agreed to cause the amendment of the Constitution by signing the FAB and CAB. They added that the agreements grant concessions to the MILF beyond the powers of the president, violating the Constitution.

Meanwhile, Paras likened the FAB and CAB to the Memorandum of Agreement on Ancestral Domain (MOA-AD) with the MILF, which the SC declared unconstitutional in 2008. –