Youth forum at University of Perpetual Help System DALTA

For today’s function, the students of The University of Perpetual Help Las Pinas in attendance this morning. The administrators, the faculty, the teaching staff, and all the other employees and personnel of the university, visiting guests and students, magandang umaga sa inyong lahat.

First of all, thank you so much for the extremely warm welcome that you have given us today. I have visited the other campuses of the University of Perpetual Help and I always feel as if it is a sort of homecoming as you have always made us feel comfortable. Your hospitality has been warm and it is like coming home once again.

Your President was just reminding me that during the 2010 elections, nandito rin kaming mga kandidato, pero nandito kami nakahilera kami dito sa taas noon para magsalita, para sumagot ng mga ilang tanong. Kahit noon pa, kahit noong kampanya ay masasabi ko na napakainit ng ibinigay ninyo sa amin sa salubong. Hindi namin nakakalimutan iyon especially after the welcome you have given me today. Maraming, maraming salamat.

I would like to express my gratitude and appreciation to all who are present here today. It also gives me great satisfaction and honour, to be able to touch base and share with the students of our higher educational institutions the results of the work that we do in the Senate as you elected representatives. Especially on this very contentious and sensitive subject matter of what was called The Bangsamoro Basic Law. Which portends great impact on our country and our people and from which not only students of political science and other so-called, politically inclined, but all students concerned about the state of our politics, our government, and of our nation that you might just learn some valuable and important lessons.

Sana lang, walang ano mang karagdagang pagsusulit ang kaakibat ang inyong pagpunta sa seminar na ito. Sana rin malay at buong puso kayo dumalo sa seminar na ito at hindi napilitan lamang. Hindi tulad noong napapabalitaan nga nating ginawa ng isang unibersidad para sa kanilang panauhing pandangal, na isang sikat na politiko ilang linggo na ang nakalipas. However, on a more serious note, as diligent university students, you are sharp and receptive, and pick up lessons and insights from this seminar on our constitutional system and our form of government. As well as the interplay between the different branches of government and the political forces involved in proposed legislation and the proposed shift in government policy.

Maganda rin sana kung pati ang mga law students and bar reviewees ay nandito rin dahil sa mga kaugnayang aspeto ng political law na dala ng BBL. Particular na ang mga probisyon sa ating Saligang Batas. Tungkol sa Autonomous Regions at tungkol sa local government. Baka kasi dahil sa kainitan ng issue, ay ngayon ay biglang magtanong sa bar exam tungkol dito sa darating na Nobyembre. Kaya pag-aralan ninyo.

Together with our topic, you may have learned in the news in the previous weeks that I already submitted in the Senate the modified version of the bill on the Bangsamoro Basic Law that was originally proposed by Malacanang.

Bago tayo magsimula, unang-una, ano ba talaga itong BBL na ibinigay ng Palasyo? Ibinigay ng Pangulo sa ating mga Congressita, sa ating mga Senador. I hope you are all aware of a basic Philippine constitutional principle that certain parts of Mindanao are declared to be on a different political status in relation to the national government and in a different political status in comparison with other local government units. Say for example the City of Manila or Ilocos Norte. This area in Muslim Mindanao has been recognized under Article 10 of the Constitutions as an Autonomous Region alongside the Cordillera Region.

In essence they are an aggrupation of local government units which share, and I quote, a common and distinctive historical and cultural heritage. Ibig sabihin may kasarinlan sila. But note however, that the concept of autonomy is essentially and substantially different from the idea or principle of independence.

So, while they may be viewed as autonomous, they are not independent. They are part, they are an integral part of the Republic of the Philippines. Right now, this certain part of Mindanao is called by the legal description, The Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao or simply ARMM. I’m sure marami sainyo nakarinig na nito kung saan pag tinutukoy ang Muslim Mindanao at iyong kanyang pamahalaan ay ang tinatawag natin ay CAR.

The grant of their autonomy has been enfleshed in a law, enacted by Congress. We had RA 6734 in 1989 and then RA 9054 in 2001. Para sa inyong kaalaman, ang Cordillera Region na tinaguriang isa ring autonomous region ay hindi pa natuloy ang pag-organisa ng kanilang pamahalaan. Dahil noong nagkaroon ng plebisito at lahat ng autonomous region ay kailangan magkaroon ng plebisito. Noong nagkaroon ng plebisito, ay hindi bumoto ang mga inhabitants ng so called Autonomous Region of the Cordillera. Ang kanilang boto ay hindi napaghihiwalay at hindi napagbabago ang kanilang Sistema ng pamahalaan.

Sa Muslim Mindanao naman, ikatlong pagkakataon na ang BBL kung saan babalikan at aayusin ang kasarinlan ng rehiyon na ito. To put it in proper prospective, this BBL, we as an entire nation are now trying to re-negotiate this grant of autonomy to the ARMM.

During previous legislations, iyong aking mga nabanggit na batas, na bumuo ng autonomous region ang Muslim Mindanao, ang kausap ng ating pamahalaan ay ang Moro National Liberation Front o ang tawag natin MNLF. They stood as the negotiator for ARMM. Ngayon naman, ang Moro Islamic Liberation Front, o MILF, sila na ang kausap ng ating pamahalaan. Sa halip na ARMM ang kanilang gustong itawag sa kanilang autonomous region, Bangsamoro na ang gusto nilang pangalan. In doing all of this, we are governed and guided by the framework of our constitutional democracy. Thus, we have to follow the rules and precepts ordained by our constitution.

To recall what you have learned in political science 101. The form of government that is ordained and authorized under our 1987 Constitution is a unitary, presidential, republican form of government. On the national level, we have the executive, we have the legislative, we have the judicial branches and the independent constitutional bodies formed by the constitutional body. On the local level, we have what are called territorial and political subdivisions of our country, or local government units. Amongst popular example of which is your very own City of Manila. These LGUs also enjoy local autonomy but not in the degree allowed by the ARMM and the Cordilleras. Notwithstanding the grant of autonomy under the law, the President still has the power of general supervision over both the LGUs and the autonomous regions.

Because of the primacy of the Constitution, the BBL, both in its substance and in the procedure for its enactment and its enforcement, must follow certain principles, basic principles that are in the Constitution. Kabuuan, the framework agreement that has been signed, is an agreement between the MILF and the GPH. Ang tawag GPH, Government of the Philippines. But this does not bind the entire Philippine government. Baka mayroon kayong maririnig na mga statement na nanggagaling sa MILF, nanggagaling sa iba’t-ibang panig na sinasabi, bakit pa tayo kailangang dumaan sa legislature? Bakit pa tayo kailangan dumaan sa judiciary? Nakapag pirmahan na kami sa Pangulo kaya’t ang ibig sabihin ang buong pamahalaan ay dapat sumunod na. Lagi kong ipinapaliwanag, ipinapaalala sa ating mga kaibigan na ganyan ang kanilang pananaw. We remind them that that applies only to treaties between a sovereign nation and the Philippine Republic. That is because the foreign policy is under the executive department. But the agreement between the MILF and the government panel is not a treaty because the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region is not a sovereign government. Therefore, the formation of that government will have to be by the enactment of a law and that law will have to be passed, examined, studied, deliberated, and finally approved by the spoke houses of Congress- the Senate and the House of Representatives. After that, should there be any challenges that of course they will also have to surmount those challenges, a judicial review might have to be undertaken.

Kung maaalala ninyo, mayroon ng kasunduan sa pamagitan ng MILF at ng GPH. Sa katunayan, ito ang nagbunsod na tinaguriang original draft na BBL. But we have to understand, that the agreements do not bind Congress. Neither does it bind the Supreme Court. Much less the entire country. Even if you see the acronym GPH, or Government of the Philippines, giving the impression that it is the entire Philippine government, it should be deep to cover and bind the executive, the President or Malacanang only. It is our President that claimed in the first place that ARMM is a failed experiment. Yes, that is one of the arguments that is being made why we are doing, changing the Bangsamoro government.

Secondly, Congress through the power of law making, not only has the authority to enact the MILF GPH original draft of the BBL, but also, to correlative power, to change its terms and make it faithful and amenable to the provisions of the Constitution and to ensure the balance and inclusive development of our country and of our people.

In school we learned that under our present Constitution, Congress is the law making body, not the President. Ibig sabihin, kailangan muna talagang dumaan sa Kongreso itong BBL bago ito maging ganap na batas. Ano man ang nilalaman ng orihinal na BBL at ano man ang pagkasunduan ng GPH at ng MILF. Pero ang problemang nakikita namin, ang malaking problema na lumabas sa aming mga pandinig sa Senado, na marami pala sa probisyon ng BBL ay labag sa Saligang Batas. Many provisions are, in the opinion of our best legal minds, unconstitutional.

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

Sa kasawiang palad, ipinagtibay ng report ni Senator Miriam, na ang aming mga hinanap, labag talaga sa Consitution ang BBL. Ika nga ng sikat na sikat na libro ngayon ni Senator Miriam, stupid is forever. Ang gusto raw di umano ng BBL ay gawin isang part sovereign state o isang sub state ang tinaguriang Bangsamoro. However, the problem arises because it has allegedly all the elements of a state under the Montevideo Convention. Namely, a permanent population, a well-defined territory, and a capacity to enter into relations with other states. So, I have to make sure that the Bangsamoro proposal would not turn the ARMM into a state within a state. The national and territorial integrity of the Philippines should be preserved, should be protected. The Bangsamoro proposal should not contain provisions leading to opportunities for cessation or for breaking away. The matter of defense, security and peace and order in the Bangsamoro should always remain with the national government. I had to make sure that the provisions leading to normalcy in the area were contained in the substitute bill that I wrote. I fully agree that peace and development in Muslim Mindanao are as much a primary objective of the BBL as the grant of enhanced autonomy. Hence, we included provisions of the so called normalization of communities and also on the decommissioning of forces.

Ibig sabihin nito, kapalit at kasabay dapat na mas malawak na autonomiya o kasarinlan ay mayroon dapat kaakibat na mas taos pusong pagtitigil sa paglalaban sa gobyerno, pagbababa ng mga armas, at paglalansag ng ating mga armadong grupo. We have to disarm literally and figuratively. A portion of our people who are so used to or so steeped in a culture of arms bearing and fighting and killing. This needs to end. The enactment of the BBL is also a time for our brothers and sisters to lay down arms and to replace them with plows, with tools, with books, with computers; other wholesome and more potent materials of creation- not of destruction and other building blocks of social development and progress. In fact, these were some of the very valuable and painful lessons that we learned from the Mamasapano massacre in January of this year.

We are able to appreciate the importance of achieving lasting peace in Mindanao. We are taught about the virtue of trust. Remember, that the MILF was involved was involved in this (16:48) the very same organization that our government has been exclusively talking to and negotiating with in the past several years about quite ironically, the quest for a just and lasting peace in Mindanao.

It is very unfortunate that it had to take the lives of forty-four (44) brave policemen in the line of duty fighting for the calls of peace and against global terrorism for us to be reminded of these important roles. But at the very least, we are greatly comforted by the thought that our fallen forty-four (44) had given their lives not only for the single valiant purpose of bringing fugitives to justice, but for more important and transcendental reasons- that of revealing the imperfections and weaknesses in the peace process in Muslim Mindanao.

So, with my sponsorship speech I (17:45) and make it a policy and a point to make tribute to the memory of our fallen forty-four (44). May they forever be remembered by our grateful nation.

Furthermore, the third point that needs to be included as a guiding principle is that the Supreme Court’s has the authority to declare a law unconstitutional. Kailangan naming pag-aralan ng mabuti ang BBL. Hindi puwedeng bara-bara. Pagka ganito ka-importanteng batas hindi mo namang pupuwedeng sabihin, bahala na si batman. Hindi puwede ang ganyang klaseng pag-iisip. Hindi puwedeng, rock and roll to the world. Kasi naririyan ang Korte Suprema sa may Padre Faura Manila na siyang nakabantay at naka-abang sa ilalabas na batas ng Kongreso at naghihintay sa ano mang magiging reklamo ng ating mamamayan na ang BBL ay labag sa ating Constitution. Or else, all the painstaking work of Congress could just end up being another target of a petition by a concerned and well-being Filipino taxpayer for (18:59) and prohibition with the Supreme Court on the ground of unconstitutional.

If the BBL were to spring forth from Congress, if the version we see will eventually be struck down by the Supreme Court as unconstitutional, what happens? Is it the end of its proponents? If the proponents are bent on passing the BBL on its exact shape and form as drafted by the Palace and the MILF, there will be no legal recourse but to initiate a coordinate move of amending or revising the Constitution. This is in order to accommodate and make possible all the drastic changes in our existing government and institutions called for under the BBL. Thus, under Article seventeen (17) of the Constitution said, proposed constitutional changes shall be done by Congress through direct action or through a constituent assembly or through a constitutional convention.

At the moment, we are in the stages of interpellation and amendments of the substitute bill in Congress. Hindi na natin pinag-uusapan ngayon ang BBL. Iyong BBL, ang tinutukoy noong BBL, BBL stands for Bangsamoro Basic Law. Lagi niyong naririnig BBL, BBL, ano iyon? Iyong BBL, iyon iyong version ng Palasyo. Iyon iyong version na sinulat at nilagdaan ng MILF at ng Philippine Government. Iyon ang binigay sa Kongreso at iyon ang sa aming pag-aaral ay nakita namin labag nga sa Saligang Batas. Kaya’t pinalitan namin at ako’y sumulat ako ng tinatawag na substitute bill. Binago ko kung ano man sa palagay ko ang kailangan baguhin. Tinanggal namin ang kung ano dapat tanggalin. Nagdagdag kami ng mga mas maliwanag na batas at ang tawag ngayon namin diyan, hindi na BBL, dahil sa katotohanan ang BBL patay na. Walang pag-asang pumasa sa House of Representatives. Walang pag-asa pumasa sa Senado. Kaya’t the short title to the substitute bill both in the House and in Senate is iyong tawag namin, The Basic Law on the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region.

As of the moment we are just taking, as I said, interpellation. Ibig sabihin, ako ngayon ay tumatayo sa Senado at lahat ng senador, pagkatapos nilang basahin at pag-aralan iyong aking substitute bill, ay magtatanong para maipaliwanag ko ang mga iba’t-ibang probisyon dito sa batas na aming ginawa.

Presidential approval is to be expected in all probabilities since he is behind the proposal. But even after the President signs the law into republic act, the law shall ultimately be laid down before the people that it is affecting and the people in Muslim Mindanao and the surrounding population for their ratification at a plebiscite wherein they will have to answer the important question, do you approve of The Basic Law for the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region?

These are the peaceful, unifying and constitutional ways of doing it. In the name of peace let this be done. No shortcuts. No railroading. No threats of violence. No threats of war. We have worked hard and risked much for this proposed legislation to reach the state. Two (2) weeks ago, we found a bullet hole through the glass of my office, with a bullet slot on the floor. Siguro, sabi ko nagulat ako, pinaputukan yata tayo dito sa ating opisina. Siguro mayroong hindi nasisiyahan doon sa aming ginagawa. But I am not rattled, I am not shaken. I will do everything to make sure that all the work will not be just put to waste or set to know. Especially on the mere whims and caprices of unseen forces working and weaving their magic behind the scenes.

Your public servant assures our young people and our posterity that as an elected representative of the Filipino people and trusted with the life and the future of our nation. I will continue the valiant struggle of our patriots by ensuring that the sovereignty and territorial integrity of our country are kept intact, respected by law, and our people are united by a common aspiration for genuine and lasting peace- for peace, for order, for justice, and development not only in Mindanao but in the entire country as well.

I hope that somehow this brief explanation that you have gained some important lessons about this topic this morning because of its sheer importance to us and our life as a nation. To our lives as a Filipino people. Especially to you- young people. What we do today is not something that we do for ourselves. We do this for the future. The future that you will inhabit. The future which you will live.

As the future of our great land, you shall be inheriting the country and the society that we, your (24:50) and fore bearers our now shaping and molding in your behalf. What we are doing now is history in the making and by your active involvement and insights in the national dialogue, you too can be part of the process of writing this particular chapter of Philippine history.

So I urge you all to be involved in your way as youthful and exuberant, dynamic and pro-active students. I also humbly ask for your support, your patience and your understanding.

So let me end on that note my dear students. Thank you for your time and your attention. Mabuhay ang University of Perpetual Help Las Pinas. Maraming salamat at magandang umaga sa inyong lahat. Thank you all.

Back to Blog