“In the Name of Peace”

Magandang umaga po sa inyong lahat!

Thank you for the giving me the opportunity to be with all of you this morning.

Maaaring nagtataka kayo kung bakit bigla-bigla na lang may sumusulpot na Senador dito sa inyong paaralan. Halos kakasimula pa lamang ng klase, tapos, kayo na agad ay pinapupunta sa isang seryosoing forum o panayam na ito.

Unang-una, huwag po kayong mag-aalala. Wala pong anumang quiz tungkol dito mamayang pagbalik ninyo sa inyong mga classrooms.

Maliban na lamang siguro kung kayo ay mga estudyante ng aking butihing maybahay na si Atty. Liza Araneta-Marcos, na propesora sa inyong College of Law. Siguro, para magpakita lang ng moral support sa akin ang asawa ko sa ginagawa kong ito, tiyak siya ay magbibigay ng isang matinding pagsusulit para kayo ay mapilitan na makinig mabuti sa lahat ng aking sasabihin dito ngayon!

Pero siyempre, hindi ko pa rin mapipigilan ang inyong mga propesor. Sila ay may tinaguriang “academic freedom”, kaya naman malaya silang gawing leksyon ito sa inyo, lalo na sa inyong mga subjects na Constitution, history, political science 101, at iba pa. Kaya mas makakabuti sa inyo na mag-aral na rin sa paksang ito!

All the more so for the law students among you here, lalo na sa mga nag-aaral para sa Bar Exams. Baka maisipan ng Bar examiner na malikot ang pag-iisip na magtanong ukol dito, lalo na sa Political Law! Dahil tunay naman talaga na napapanahon ang paksang ito na pag-uusapan natin ngayong umaga!

But seriously, I hope that you will be able to pick up important lessons about our topic this morning, because of its sheer importance to our life as a nation, and to our lives as a Filipino people, especially to you—our youth. As the future of our great land, you shall be inheriting the country and the society that we—your progenitors and forbears—are now shaping and molding in your behalf.

Alam po ninyo, sa mga nakalipas na buwan, napakarami ko na pong nakausap na mga kababayan natin. Umabot pa ako sa ilang mga bayan sa Mindanao. Nakausap ko ang mga taga-roon, ang MILF, pati ang MNLF, ang mga opisyal ng lokal na pamahalaan at mga ahensya ng gobyerno, mga indigenous peoples, mga Sultan at mga Datu, at mula sa iba’t ibang sektor ng lipunan.

Sabi ko sa aking sarili: sa dami ng aking mga nakausap, hindi ko pa nakakapanayam ang mga kabataan at mga mag-aaral. Kapag hindi ko gagawin ito, ito ay isang malaking pagkukulang dahil ang kabataan ang siyang kinabukasan ng ating bayan at ang siyang pangunahing makikinabang sa anumang ginagawa namin na mga ito.

Kaya minabuti kong puntahan kayo rito upang kapanayamin at kausapin sa paksang ito—tamang-tama, habang kami sa Senado ay nasa “recess”. “Senate recess” o adjournment ang tinutukoy ko, at hindi ang “recess” na iniisip ninyo at inaasam-asam ninyo araw-araw sa eskuwelahan!

To get on with our topic, you are all perhaps aware that we in Congress, most especially myself as Chairman of the Senate Committee on Local Government, are presently undertaking this huge task of studying and deliberating on the Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) as proposed by Malacañang.

To put in proper perspective just what exactly it is that we are doing, we as a nation are now at a particular point in our history where we are renewing our constitutional commitment to peace and development with our brothers and sisters in Muslim Mindanao. And in light of this commitment, we are likewise attempting to recalibrate the terms of the grant of autonomy to Muslim Mindanao, which, as of present time, is legally known and legally recognized as the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM).

We are doing this in the context of, and within the framework of our constitutional democracy. The form of government that is ordained and authorized under our 1987 Constitution is a unitary, presidential, republican, and constitutional form of government. On the national level, we have the executive, legislative and judicial branches. Then, on the local level, we have what are called the “territorial and political subdivisions” of our country, or our local government units, a most popular example of which is your very own, City of Manila.

Under the Constitution, our local government units (LGUs) are allowed to enjoy local autonomy, which is in the nature of “administrative autonomy” or decentralization of administration. They have certain powers allowed under Constitution and further enfleshed under the Local Government Code, and are under the general supervision of the President.

But then, our Constitution also recognizes what are known as “autonomous regions”, which are an aggrupation of local government units, which share a “common and distinctive historical and cultural heritage”. The only two (2) autonomous regions authorized by the Constitution are: the Cordillera region; and Muslim Mindanao.

These autonomous regions are special, in that under the Constitution, they have extensive powers, which are not otherwise possessed by ordinary local government units. Based on an enabling law to be enacted by Congress, these extensive powers of the autonomous region would be exercised by the regional government, which would have its own special executive, legislative and judicial branches. According to the Supreme Court, the autonomy they enjoy is “political autonomy”, and not merely administrative autonomy.

However, notwithstanding the political autonomy, these autonomous regions are very much still part of, and are not separate from, the Philippine State. In fact, the Constitution mandates that they shall be “within the framework of this Constitution and the national sovereignty as well as territorial integrity of the Republic of the Philippines”. Moreover, like ordinary local government units, they are also subject to the general supervision of the President of the Republic.

Now, as of this time, only the autonomous region in Muslim Mindanao had been organized. Yung sa Cordilleras, hindi pa. The Cordillera region has not yet been officially organized as an autonomous region, despite two (2) attempts by Congress in the past two decades. But I am aware that efforts are being made now in the Cordilleras to undertake its third attempt at autonomy, perhaps inspired and buoyed by the whole BBL saga.

So again, what we have now is the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao or the ARMM, under Republic Act No. 9054.

However, in September last year, Malacañang sent to Congress the draft of a bill, entitled “Bangsamoro Basic Law”, which, as its full title conveyed, sought to abolish the ARMM and repeal the existing law, which is RA 9054. In groping to understand the reason behind all this, we go back to what the President had said a few years ago that the ARMM was a “failed experiment”.

Yes, our President said that!

Pero ang problema—ANG MALAKING PROBLEMA—ay lumabas sa aming mga pagdinig sa Senado na marami pala sa probisyon ng BBL ang labag sa ating Saligang Batas!

Kaya ang aking ginawa ay minabuti kong humingi ng isang pauna at pampaganang lecture o sermon mula sa aming dalubhasa sa Senado sa Saligang Batas, na si Senador Miriam Santiago. Ang ginawa ni Senador Miriam ay inimbitahan niya ang mga magagaling at matitinik na mga utak sa Saligang Batas upang pag-aralan itong BBL, at kung ito nga ba ay naaayon sa ating Saligang Batas.

Sa kasawiang-palad, ipinagtibay ng Report ni Senador Miriam ang aming mga naunang hinala: LABAG TALAGA SA KONSTITUSYON ANG BBL!

Ang gusto raw di-umano ng BBL ay gawing” isang “part-sovereign state” o isang “sub-state” ang tinaguriang “Bangsamoro”. Allegedly, it has all the elements of a State under the Montevideo Convention, namely: 1) Permanent population; 2) Defined territory; and 3) Capacity to enter into relations with other States.

Tapos, magiging iba ang istruktura ng gobyerno sa loob nito: Parliamentary. Eh, ang gobyerno nga ng Pilipinas ay Presidential, ‘di ba? Paano naman mangyayari yun?

Bukod pa rito, napakaraming kapangyarihan ang binibigay sa Bangsamoro government! Mas marami at mas malawak pa sa mga kapangyarihan na pinapayagan sa mga autonomous regions sa ilalim ng ating Saligang Batas. Sa dami ng kapangyarihang ibinibigay sa Bangsamoro government, para bang may sarili na itong buhay na hiwalay sa bansang Pilipinas.

What do all these observations lead to? If Congress were to pass this exact version of the BBL as drafted by the Palace, then the resultant law would clearly and grossly violate our Constitution. Hence, all the painstaking work of Congress could just end up being another sumptuous target of a petition by a concerned and well-meaning Filipino taxpayer for certiorari and prohibition with the Supreme Court on the ground of unconstitutionality!

In any event, and without preempting the official findings and recommendations of my Committee, we are aware of the following remedies and options allowed by the Constitution and existing doctrines of the Supreme Court:

1) Congress might have to modify and adjust the present version of the BBL, in order to align and make it consistent with the Constitution. Shorn of the unconstitutional provisions, the BBL could then already proceed to be a legitimate subject of legislation by Congress. To repeat, Congress cannot pass a law that would go against the Constitution. This is based on the doctrine of constitutional supremacy.

2) If the proponents of the BBL in Congress are really bent on passing the BBL in the exact shape and form as drafted by the Palace, then there would be no other legal recourse but to initiate a coordinate move of amending or revising of the Constitution. This is in order to accommodate and make possible all the drastic changes in our existing government structures and institutions called for under the BBL. Thus, under the Article XVII of the Constitution, said proposed constitutional changes shall be done by Congress either through direct action, upon a vote of three-fourths (3/4) of all its Members; or through a Constitutional Convention. This particular view is shared by eminent legal minds, most notably by former Chief Justice Artemio Panganiban.

These are the peaceful, unifying, and constitutional ways of doing it. In the name of peace, let these be done.

No shortcuts. No railroading. No threats of violence. No threats of war.

Let us do this right, as one nation united by our Constitution and under one Flag.

Tandaan at isapuso natin ang ating “Panunumpa sa Watawat”:

Ako ay Filipino.
Buong katapatang nanunumpa
Sa watawat ng Pilipinas
At sa bansang kanyang sinasagisag
Na may dangal, katarungan at kalayaan…

My dear students, as future lawyers, professionals, leaders or public servants of our country, you shall renew and revivify your pledge of allegiance to our country. Soon, you shall swear an Oath to maintain allegiance to the Republic of the Philippines. Soon, you shall swear to uphold its Constitution and obey the laws.

This early but auspicious stage in your citizen life, I want you to already feel and be drawn by the immense power of our being Filipinos, confirmed by our pledges of allegiance to our country, the Philippines.

A few days ago, we commemorated our country’s 117th year of independence. As we head towards clarity and certainty, and the ultimate resolution to this monumental task of the BBL, may we all remember and appreciate all that our national heroes had done in unifying and liberating our country, the Philippines. More importantly, may we all, now as citizens of the country that they had helped establish, be able to continue the heroic work that they had done, by fighting for the preservation and continued integrity of our beloved country.

I assure our youth and our posterity that as elected representative of the Filipino people, entrusted with the life and the future of our nation, your humble public servant will continue the valiant struggles of our patriots by ensuring that the sovereignty and territorial integrity of our country are kept intact and respected by all, and our people united by a common aspiration for genuine and lasting peace, order, justice and development not only in Mindanao, but in our entire country as well.

Let me end on that note, my dear students.

Thank you for your time and attention.

I humbly ask for your support, your patience and your understanding.

Mabuhay ang ating mga magagaling at makabayang kabataan at mga mag-aaral!

Mabuhay ang Pamantasan ng Lungsod ng Maynila!

Maraming salamat po at magandang umagang muli sa inyong lahat!

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