A member of the Government of the Philippines (GPH) peace panel legal team reiterated that the normalization process, part of which is the decommissioning or turnover of Moro Islamic Liberation Front’s (MILF) weapons and forces, need not be in the proposed Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL), citing as reasons constitutional requirements, the power of the President to conduct peace negotiations, and the nature of an organic or basic law as outlined in the 1987 Constitution.
In a press briefing held on April 6, Atty. Sitti Amirah Pendatun said the normalization process is not included in the proposed BBL due to a constitutional provision that prohibits the creation of a bill that has more than one subject.
Pendatun was referring to Art. VI, Sec. 26(1) of the 1987 Constitution, which says “every bill passed by the Congress shall embrace only one subject which shall be expressed in the title thereof.”
“The BBL is really about the establishment of an autonomous region. It’s about the creation of a political entity which seeks to establish an inclusive system of governance for a multicultural segment of the Philippine population, and not about the MILF per se,” Pendatun explained.
“For this reason, the normalization is not a pertinent subject of the proposed BBL,” she added. “In fact, if we include two subjects, there’s a possibility that this will be challenged in court for non-compliance with the constitutional requirement.”
Pendatun also clarified that the normalization process, which will be jointly implemented with the MILF, does not need new legislation as it is within the power of the president to conduct peace talks.
“We believe that the current legal framework empowers the President to enter into and implement agreements on normalization, including decommissioning,” she said. “Thus there is no need for a new law.”
“The Supreme Court decided in a case that the President is the one in power to conduct peace negotiations. That is implicitly included in his powers as Chief Executive and as Commander-in-Chief,” Pendatun explained. The President as Chief Executive “has general responsibility to promote public peace,” and as Commander-in-Chief has the “specific duty to prevent and suppress rebellion and lawless violence."
She added that "normalization, which includes decommissioning, is a measure to promote public peace and to prevent or suppress rebellion."
Citing jurisprudence, Pendatun noted that “the President must be given leeway to explore solutions for the implementation and to end hostilities, because the President is in a singular best position to know the grievances and also know the measures to address these grievances.”
Lastly, Pendatun explained that the Constitution already provides a guideline for the content of an organic act such as the proposed BBL.
“The Constitution itself provides the guidelines for it. We have two sections: Article X, Sec. 18 and Article X, Sec. 20,” she said.
According to the Constitution, an organic act should contain the basic structure of government (executive and legislative), the creation of special courts, provisions on the conduct of a plebiscite, and the legislative powers of the proposed entity. And all of these matters are already included in the proposed BBL."
The normalization process has three main components -- security, socioeconomic development, and transitional justice and reconciliation -- which are aimed at fostering peace in conflict-affected communities in
Mindanao, which will then allow
individuals to fully pursue productive and sustainable livelihoods without fear
of violence or crime.