By Vanne Elaine Terrazola
Former Senate president Aquilino “Nene” Pimentel Jr. believes that the proposed Bangasamoro Basic Law (BBL) will not hurdle the Congress if it continues to push the “unconstitutional” creation of a parliamentary government in the Bangsamoro Region.
Pimentel Jr. said the framers of the BBL should drop their proposed parliamentary system of goverment in the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region as it may be unconstitutional.
“If they insist that we adopt a parliamentary form of government in the Bangsamoro entity, I think it will run into some constitutional difficulties,” he told reporters at the sidelines of the second Senate hearing of the Upper Chamber on the BBL Tuesday.
The proposed BBL creates a parliament which will be elected by the people, and then shall vote on who will be the the Chief Minister of the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region, as well the members of its Cabinet.
This, Pimentel said, will negate the 1987 Constitution which states that the Philippines has a presidential form of government wherein officials are elected by people into office.
“Just eliminate that, have the officials in the Bangsamoro elected by the people. Because that is what we are doing under a presidential form of government,” Pimentel urged.
Pimentel also called on lawmakers to adopt in the proposed BBL the provisions of the present Charter on freedom of speech and of the press.
He said the draft BBL only states that “freedom of speech is guaranteed” and did not make mention of securing the freedom of the press. “That’s not right,” he said.
He also noted that the draft BBL’s distinct education curriculum must go with the curriculum being implemented by the Department of Education.
Pimentel said that the BBL, despite discussions on the government’s possible shift to federalism, will not be effective if goes against the provisions of the current Constitution.
Senator Juan Miguel Zubiri, chair of the Senate subcommittee tackling the BBL, at the end of the hearing assured to address the points of the former Senate chief on the constitutionality of the measure.
Still, Pimentel said the BBL “deserves the support of the people” as he stressed its “good intention” on bringing long-lasting peace and development in Mindanao.
Meanwhile, Pimentel reiterated that the Philippines must assert its ownership over the disputed islands near the country.
The 84-year-old former Senate chief made the appeal as he said the BBL should concern not only provinces in Muslim Mindanao, but the territory of whole country.
“Our people should not forget that when we talk of BBL, that applies to the Republic of the Philippines. We are not talking only of Luzon, Visayas or Mindanao,” he said.
“We would like to emphasize that Scarborough is ours, that the Kalayaan Shoal is ours, that the Benham Rise is likewise within our exclusive economic zone (EEZ) as defined by the UNCLOS,” he stressed.
The Palace on Monday maintained the country’s “sovereign rights” over the Benham Rise, a 13-million hectare underwater plateau off eastern waters of the country.
As for the Scarborough Shoal, Malacanang also said the Philippines has sovereignty but will allow China to claim rights over the islands as long as the latter will would not reclaim nor create artificial islands.