Dec 142014

The chair of the committee deliberating on the proposed Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) is considering scrapping some of the provisions delegating the duties of constitutional bodies to the porposed political entity because of the constitutional issues raised against them. 

In particular, Cagayan de Oro Rep. Rufus Rodriguez believes the provisions in the Bangsamoro bill mandating the creation of the Bangsamoro Civil Service Office, audit body and human rights commission should be removed because they might diminish the inherent power of the existing constitutional bodies.

“That’s my position. I don’t know how the other members will decide… but as a lawyer, I see there’s a valid reason to question these provisions after hearing the side of COA (Commission on Audit), CSC (Civil Service Commission), and the Ombudsman,” he said in an interview over dzBB radio Sunday.

During deliberations on House Bill 4994, Ombudsman Conchita Carpio Morales expressed apprehension about the provisions on the creation of certain agencies in the Bangsamoro, saying these might diminish the power of the constitutional bodies of the national government.

Among the provisions opposed by Morales, a retired Supreme Court associate justice, was Section 2 (8) Article 5 of the BBL which states that “the Bangsamoro Government shall have primary disciplinary authority over its own officials and employees”.

“We believe that this diminishes the Ombudsman’s constitutional power to investigate any act or omission of any public official, employee, office or agency as it divests the Ombudsman’s powers to investigate elective and appointive officials of the Bangsmoro government,” she said in a position paper submitted to the House panel.

The COA and CSC have expressed similar views in committee hearings. 

Rodriguez said the panel needs to resolve the constitutional issues regarding the Bangsamoro bill “because it will be embarrassing if we approve certain provisions which the Supreme Court will find to be unconstitutional.”

“It’s hard to delegate the duties of constitutional bodies to another agency. The constitution is clear that there’s only one Comelec (Commission on Elections), COA, CSC, Ombudsman, Commission on Human Rights,” he said. 

No diminished powers

According to the primer on the Bangsamoro Framework Agreement, the provisions contained in the Annex on Power Sharing will not diminish the powers granted to constitutional bodies since the Bangsamoro government’s powers over the same subject matters are without prejudice to the agencies’ authority.

“In the exercise of the concurrent power over human rights and humanitarian protection and promotion, the Bangsamoro government’s human rights body will work cooperatively with the national Commission on Human Rights (CHR). Notably, this is the on-going arrangement between the current Regional Human Rights Commission in the ARMM and the CHR,” the primer read.

“Likewise, the creation of their own auditing bodies and own civil service code are expressly without prejudice to the authorities of the national Civil Service Commission and the national Commission on Audit,” it added.

Despite the constitutional issues surrounding the Bangsamoro bill, Rodriguez said there remains to be “overwhelming support” for the proposal, which seeks to formalize the creation of a new political entity that will replace the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao. 

“There’s overwhelming support not just in the envisioned core territory of the Bangsamoro, but even in the areas outside. The people in Mindanao believe that if lasting peace is achieved in the region through the BBL and its proper implementation, then the cities and provinces nearby also stand to benefit from it,” he said. 

Rodriguez is targeting the passage of the Bangsamoro bill on third and final reading at the House before the end of March 2015. Xianne Arcangel/JDS, GMA News

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