BOL questioned in Supreme Court

Any Filipino citizen can go to the Supreme Court and question the legality or constitutionality of any law. The Bangsamoro Organic Law (BOL), or RA 11054, is now in the hot-seat for possible legal scrutiny.

Well and good as it shows we are in a democracy and thus, it is within the rights of Sulu Governor Sakur “Totoh” Tan II to file a petition for certiorari and prohibition. He is on the usual track, and because he is young, this exercise can be part of his maturing process.

Nevertheless, the motive behind the filing left us confounded and therefore, we are seriously questioning it. The BOL is a vast improvement than RA 9054, which in turn amended RA 6734 that established the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM). What would he gain if the BOL, or parts of it, are declared unconstitutional? Perhaps self-satisfaction that he can block the BOL to become a full law? If this is so, it is undoubtedly a shallow success at the expense of the higher good of the Bangsamoro people including those in Sulu where most of its residents are living below the marginal line.

We would like to believe that the petition is only the handiwork of the younger Tan, and no dominant hand is pushing him from behind.

In a meeting with MILF Chair Al Haj Murad Ebrahim in Makati City in July this year, his father, former Sulu Governor Abdusakur “Sakur” Tan, had not objected to the BOL, previously called BBL. Our impression is that he has an altruistic aim of helping improve the law especially the territorial jurisdiction by proposing to include the Zamboanga Peninsula.

Be this as it may, it is still perplexing why the younger Tan, signing the petition as governor of Sulu, is opposing the BOL that was “fathered” by no less than President Rodrigo Roa Duterte. Is this not an open defiance of the president’s peace policy to address the historical injustices committed against the Bangsamoro? Furthermore, will this actuation endear him to the president or will this lead to a falling-out with the president?  The president is still the most powerful Filipino leader today, aside from being very popular with the people.

In addition, the proposed law was deliberated in Congress by some of the best legal minds in the country, to name a few, Senator Franklin Drilon, former Senate President Koko Pimentel, Senator Richard Gordon, Senator Sonny Angara, Senator Chiz Escudero, former House Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez, former House Majority Floor Leader Rodolfo Farinas. They were in the frontlines during the deliberations of the BOL in Congress, especially during the Bicameral Conference Committee debates. The BOL made it in Congress, yes, BUT THROUGH THE PROVERBIAL EYE OF THE NEEDLE. 

The fate of BOL is now on the hands of the Supreme Court. Composed of honorable men and women, all we can do is to trust them and wait for their decision.

The younger Tan’s decision is either deeply thought-out or haphazardly done depending on the consequence. If he gets a temporary restraining order (TRO) from the Supreme Court to stop the holding of the plebiscite on January 21, 2019, which is the immediate objective, then the regular election in the ARMM would push through. Is it, therefore, a coincidence that while this petition is being pursued, someone in Sulu has also filed candidacy for the regional governor in the ARMM? A case of shooting two birds with one stone?

On the other hand, if the petition is rushed, because of youthhood, those supporting the BOL would suspect his intentions and accuse him of working against the cause of the Bangsamoro people. Moreover, reversely, if he fails to get a TRO, and with finality, the Supreme Court rules in favor of the constitutionality of the BOL, is this not devastation, politically speaking, as we’ve pushed the BOL and essentially the peace process into brinkmanship or last-ditch option?

Unlike before, his father is currently facing strong and formidable political opponents. All the prominent and influential clans in Sulu, such as the Loongs, Amins, Tulawis, Sahidullahs, Estinos, and Arbisons, have arrayed against him and his son. Incidentally, these clans are all pro-BOL.

Without a doubt, the outcome of the petition has a direct bearing on the gubernatorial race in Sulu. The battle lines are drawn: those in favor of the BOL and those against the BOL. If a TRO is forthcoming, the chance of the father-and-son tandem will be significantly enhanced. However, if they fail, those opposing them would be in the upper hand.