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Supreme Court asked to stop, junk Bangsamoro law

The Supreme Court has been petitioned to stop and eventually declare unconstitutional the Bangsamoro Organic Law (BOL), a landmark legislation that aims to end decades of conflict in Mindanao.

In a petition obtained by reporters Tuesday, the province of Sulu, represented by Governor Abdusakur Tan II, asked the justices to issue a temporary restraining order halting the government from enforcing Republic Act No. 11054, or the Organic Law for the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao.

He also wants the Executive Department permanently barred from implementing what he called an "unconstitutional" law, and the Commission on Elections (Comelec) enjoined from holding the January 21, 2019 plebiscite needed to ratify it.

Tan accused Congress of grave abuse of discretion by passing the law, which President Rodrigo Duterte signed on July 26, capping years of government negotiations with Moro rebels.

He said the enactment of the BOL violates Section 18 and 19, Article X of the Constitution, which he said allows the enactment of only one Organic Act upon the establishment of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM).

And since the ARMM was created by the Constitution, only a constitutional amendment may abolish it, he said. "R.A. 11054 which effectively abolishes ARMM is, therefore, unconstitutional," Tan said in the petition.

He also alleged the establishment of a parliamentary form of government in the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region (BAR) violates constitutional provisions on the doctrine of separation of powers, and on the Organic Act of the Autonomous Region's authority to define the basic structure of government for the region.

Other provisions Tan is challenging for allegedly being unconstitutional are the automatic inclusion of the ARMM geographical area in the BAR, the conduct of the plebiscite, and the designation of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) to lead the Bangsamoro Transition Authority.

More, that the law "compels the Province of Sulu to be part of the proposed BAR even if it votes for exclusion," Tan alleged, "has effectively erased the identity of the indigenous cultural minorities" in the province "without their knowledge and consent" and "against their will."

Sections 1 to 5 of Article III -- on territorial jurisdiction -- of the BOL also violate the rights of Sulu's indigenous people guaranteed by the Constitution, he added. 

"To reiterate, the BAR is an autonomous region separate and distinct from the current ARMM. Hence, it is but proper that constituents in each of the provinces and cities composing the ARMM, voting separately, be given the freedom to exercise their rights to suffrage and local autonomy guaranteed by the Constitution," the petition stated.

Finally, when "taken in its entirety," the BOL violates Section 5, Article III of the Constitution, which provides for the free exercise and enjoyment of religious profession and worship, it said.

Named respondents in the petition were Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdea, Interior OIC Eduardo Año, the Senate, the House of Representatives, the Comelec, Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process Jesus Dureza, the Bangsamoro Transition Commission, and the MILF.

A source told GMA News Online that Tan's petition, raffled to a justice in charge on Tuesday, will be taken up by the High Court on November 6. 

In accordance with Charter

Meanwhile, Senate Majority Leader Juan Miguel Zubiri maintained that the Bangsamoro Organic Law (BOL) is in accordance with the Constitution.

"It is unfortunate that the province of Sulu challenged the constitutionality of the BOL but it it well within their rights to do so. I truly believe, though, that the Organic Law that we passed can stand the test of constitutionality after careful scrutiny done by the best legal minds and with consultations done with eminent constitutionalists and former Chief Justices and Justices of the Supreme Court," Zubiri said in statement.

"We hope that our Honorable Justices of the Supreme Court can look at this law as an out of the box solution for lasting peace in Mindanao within the framework of our Constitution," Zubiri said. — with Llanesca T. Panti/RSJ, GMA News