‘In the eye of the beholder’

“In the eye of the beholder” is most often a cliché used in relation to beauty. What is beautiful depends on who is looking at, say a girl or woman. There seems to be no universality of taste of what is beautiful.

But looking at how the previous 16th Congress treated the proposed Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) and compared it with early comments of people including some legislators on the new BBL, one can say that it is not always true that this cliché is only about beauty. It touches also other issues and concerns like a piece of legislation. In the previous Congress, they practically did not touch the BBL’s provisions on Bangsamoro Police and parliamentary (ministerial is the term used in the Framework Agreement on the Bangsamoro) system of governance --- alongside the constitutional bodies namely Commission on Audit, Commission on Human Rights, Commission on Election, and Civil Service Commission.

But this early, not to mention the opposition to the constitutional bodies, it surfaces that that these two issues of the new BBL are in the limelight as possibly deemed unconstitutional by some legal minds including some lawmakers.

We see this as a seriously odd situation, if not a flawed creeping development. Why are lawyers and/or lawmakers, reading the same 1987 Constitution and examining the same BBL end up having variant views?  Is it the nature of lawyering that lawyers always trained to disagree practically on everything?

Legal luminaries often assert that Constitutions are not legal but political document. As such, it is flexible and is dynamic. It is living and vibrant. It is a tool to solve man’s problem – and not as impediment.

To the MILF, the three above-enumerated provisions on are very vital to the creation of a real autonomous entity for the Bangsamoro. Except for the creation of the Bangsamoro Police Board and chief minister as ex-officio member of the National Police Commission (NAPOLCOM) and as ex-officio chair of the Bangsamoro Police Board, practically every provision of the new BBL on policing is copied from R. A. 9054 that created the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM). On the parliamentary or ministerial system, Article 10 of the 1987 Constitution clearly states in Section 18 to wit:  “…The organic act shall define the basic structure of government for the region consisting of the executive department and legislative assembly, both of which shall be elective and representative of the constituent political units.”

All these prerequisites are satisfied in the BBL, both old and new. All members of Bangsamoro parliament are elected and representatives of the constituent political units. Moreover, even the less privileged and marginalized sectors are also represented by giving them reserved seats which are to be determined by the respective sectors. Real and genuine democracy is also about giving them a fair of everything including those in governance.

We have all the respect for lawmakers, and we do not doubt they aspire to notions of justice and fairness in the laws that they enact. But the enactment of a law does not settle the debate whether that law is just or fair. Law in the end does not define justice nor tell us what is just in a particular case. It may tell us what we must do or what we have a right to do. Its limits may tell us what we are free to do. In many cases those statements will reflect or embody what most people would agree are principles of common morality. But that is not always so. What is lawful is not always right or just or fair. It may be exceeded by what is generous and altruistic and giving.

Finally, the BBL is meant to solve the Bangsamoro Problem or Question. If Congress passes a diluted BBL, where is sense or wisdom of passing it? Come to think of it!