MANILA, May 18 (PNA) -- In light of the concerns of critics on the legality of the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro (CAB), Government of the Philippines (GPH) Legal Team head Atty. Anna Tarhata Basman affirmed that the Philippine Constitution has been the paramount basis of the CAB which is now translated into a draft Bangsamoro Basic Law that will be submitted to Congress for passage this year.


"The CAB is legal," Basman said while reiterating that the GPH Peace Panel welcomes the concerns of everyone on the CAB. "We are open to engaging and informing everyone on the different provisions on the CAB."


Constitutional basis

According to Basman, Article X of the Philippine Constitution, which contains provisions on autonomous regions served as the basis for the Bangsamoro's ministerial form of government.


“The general guideline it provided for the structure of government of an autonomous region is that the executive and legislative branches of the autonomous government must be elective and representative of the constituent political units," she said.


She noted that the republican form of government is entrenched in the Constitution. However, the exact form and mechanism to derive citizen’s representation in the government is not specifically prescribed in the Supreme Law and so it does not exclude other structures of representative democracy.


On the devolution of powers to the Bangsamoro, Basman said that “Section 20 of Article X is the constitutional basis for the listing of devolved powers.”


She added that the signed CAB, which lists such power-sharing arrangements between the Central and Bangsamoro governments, has yet to be fleshed out in the Basic Law that will undergo national legislation.


“It is therefore up to Congress to determine the extent of the legislative powers to be granted to the Bangsamoro legislative body and the relationship of this power vis-à-vis existing and future national legislations,” she further said.


As to the retention of the President’s general supervision over autonomous regions, Atty. Basman said this will continue in the Bangsamoro which respects the power of the national government and national sovereignty.


She said that like what has been exercised by the current Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM), the future Bangsamoro government that will replace it will also have devolved powers to regulate its constituent Local Government Units (LGUs).


Basman also assured that the CAB respects the powers of constitutional bodies. She cited excerpts of the CAB that gives “due regard to the powers of the Supreme Court,” “without prejudice to the power, authority and duty of the national Commission on Audit,” and its continued mandate in autonomous regions like the future Bangsamoro.


She likewise clarified that the police force for the Bangsamoro will be under the National Police Commission (NAPOLCOM) as required by the Constitution.


“Also, having a human rights body specifically catering to the Bangsamoro will not diminish the current powers of the national Commission on Human Rights (CHR) as in fact this arrangement already exists in the form of the Regional Human Rights Commission in the ARMM,” she said.


On the creation of autonomous regions in the country, Atty. Basman underscored that “our Constitution itself provides the justification for the asymmetry and reserved a separate set of provisions for two particular areas in the country – Muslim Mindanao and the Cordilleras.”


“This progressive and enlightened section recognizes the uniqueness of the peoples belonging to these areas and provides for their rightful exercise of self-governance. The Bangsamoro Basic Law as the enabling law for the establishment of the Bangsamoro precisely aims to operationalize this constitutional objective,” she said.


Meanwhile, lawmakers such as Cagayan de Oro Rep. Rufus Rodriguez and Magdalo Party-List Rep. Francisco Ashley "Ace" Acedillo also affirmed the constitutionality of the CAB during a weekly press briefing held at the House of Representatives.


Rodriguez reiterated that the CAB only provides for enhanced autonomy, negating claims that it creates an independent state.


On her part, GPH Peace Panel Chair Prof. Miriam Coronel-Ferrer, in her recent public speech, said that independence was never an agenda in the negotiations.


Atty. Basman also said that the creation of Bangsamoro as a sub-political unit of the Philippine state that respects its territorial integrity and national sovereignty, is far from being a prelude to an independent state.


“The Bangsamoro is therefore within the frame of our 1987 Constitution,” she said.