Supreme Court spokesman Jose Midas Marquez/ Photo courtesy by THE MANILA TIMES

No TRO from SC vs. BOL Plebiscite

MANILA — The scheduled plebiscite for the ratification of Republic Act No. 11054 or the Bangsamoro Organic Law (BOL) will likely push through as the Supreme Court (SC) has not issued a restraining order against it.

“The plebiscite will proceed. As of now no TRO (temporary restraining order) has been issued so far (by the SC on the case),” SC spokesperson Jose Midas Marquez told reporters in a press briefing Tuesday after the court’s en banc deliberation.

Marquez also said the two cases filed by Sulu province and the Philippine Constitutional Association (Philconsa) challenging BOL have been consolidated. The parties named have been given 10 days to file their comment on the case, he added.

An Islamic group on Monday asked the High Court to turn down the two petitions challenging the validity of law.

In its 52-page motion, the Philippine Association of Islamic Accountants (PAIA), Inc., represented by its president Amanoding Esmail, and lawyers Nasser Marohomsalic and Presidential Anti-Corruption Commissioner Manuelito Luna, urged the SC to dismiss the suits filed by Sulu as represented by Governor Abdusakur Tan II.

The Commission on Elections (COMELEC) has set the plebiscite for the ratification of the BOL on January 21.

“Petitioner Sakur Tan II owns no personal or material interest that will be prejudiced by the implementation of the law, for which reason he is bereft of legal standing to come to court and question the constitutionality of the law,” the intervenors said.

They also defended the creation of the law, explaining that “the BOL is a social justice legislation designed to empower the Bangsamoro that they may exercise or live their way of life according to their best lights, free from unwarranted encroachment by the majority population of the country, it fleshes out the constitutional police of the State and the political structure of autonomy sought for the creation in Muslim Mindanao.”

They argued that contrary to the law’s critics, the BOL does not violate the constitutional prohibition against the establishment of a state-sanctioned religion.

“Christians in the region are exempt from the jurisdiction of the Shari’ah courts or the operation of Shari’ah law unless they voluntarily submit thereto. So are the non-Moro or non-Muslim indigenous peoples who are bound to their traditional or tribal justice system,” they said.

Last week, in its 118-page comment, the government, through the Office of the Solicitor General (OSG), asked the SC to turn down the petition seeking to strike down the law.

Apart from the Sulu provincial government, the Philippine Constitutional Association filed a similar petition against the BOL last month. The SC has consolidated both petitions.

The OSG argued that the BOL complied with the requirement for the governmental setup for an autonomous region under the Constitution.

“Section 18, Article X of the 1987 Constitution requires only that the basic structure of government of the autonomous regions consist of an executive department and a legislative assembly, both of which are present in the proposed Bangsamoro government. The 1987 Constitution does not require Congress to adopt a structure akin to a presidential form of government for the autonomous regions, and this, has the discretion of adopting a parliamentary form of government instead,” the OSG pleading said.

Solicitor General Jose Calida also discounted the petitioner’s claim that the law erased the identity of indigenous cultural minorities in Sulu by automatically including it in the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region without their knowledge and consent and also against their will and in violation of their rights.

“Under the plenary power of Congress to determine the territory of the proposed Bangsamoro Autonomous Region, the inclusion of the current constituent units of the ARMM (Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao) does not violate the identity and the rights of the non-Moro indigenous peoples. Further, the Bangsamoro Organic Law clearly provided for the protection and preferential rights of the non-Moro indigenous peoples of Mindanao,” he said.

Calida also argued that the SC should not hand down a restraining order and/or writ of preliminary injunction because the allegations raised by petitioner were speculative.

The BOL expands the ARMM, which is composed of Sulu, Lanao del Sur, Maguindanao, Tawi-Tawi and Basilan (except Isabela City); six towns of Lanao del Norte and 39 barangays of Cotabato, and the chartered cities of Isabela and Cotabato, subject to the approval of voters.