Justice Marvic Leonen: Breaking vow of silence INQUIRER/ MARIANNE BERMUDEZ

Justice Leonen to handle petitions assailing the legality of BOL

Supreme Court Associate Justice Mario Victor Leonen, former government chief negotiator with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), will handle all petitions assailing the legality and constitutionality of the Bangsamoro Organic Law (BOL) expanding the autonomy of Muslim Mindanao, a report by Jomar Canlas of TMT said today.

The Supreme Court consolidated on Tuesday the two petitions of the Philippine Constitutional Association (Philconsa) and the petition filed by the Governor Abdusakur Tan II of Sulu.

Mr. Canlas in his report said that Tan petition was raffled off to Leonen, but since it had the lowest docket number, it absorbed the Philconsa petition, along with the intervention filed by the Philippine Association of Islamic Accountants (PAIA) that took the side of the government and sought the junking of the petitions lodged by the Sulu Governor and Philconsa.

Commissioner Manuelito Luna of the Presidential Anti-Corruption Commission (PACC) and PAIA President Amanoding Esmail represent the intervenors.

Respondents to the case are Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdea and members of the Senate and the House of Representatives, headed by Senator Vicente Sotto III, House Speaker Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, and the Bangsamoro Transition Commission that crafted the BOL.

Leonen is tasked to study the case and make recommendations, Canlas also said in his report.

It is recalled that in 2012 and 2015, cases involving the Framework Agreement on the Bangsamoro (FAB), Leonen inhibited. 

In a statement in 2015 that the higher court released said that Leonen would voluntary inhibit himself from all pending and future cases related to the Framework and Comprehensive Agreements on the Bangsamoro and the Bangsamoro law.

Leonen served was Chairman of the Government of the Philippines Peace Panel (GPH) that negotiated the FAB with MILF in 2012 during the administration of Pres. Benigno Aquino III. 

Last Tuesday, the high court did not issue a temporary restraining order (TRO) sought by Gov Tan and Philconsa to stop the BOL plebiscite on January 21st and February 6.

Meanwhile, Senate Majority Leader Juan Miguel Zubiri urged anew the residents of ARMM to approve the BOL, as he expressed optimism that the high tribunal would favor the measure amid questions on its constitutionality, Mr. Canlas further said in his report.

Zubiri led the Senate in the bicameral conference committee that reconciled the measure with members of the House. 

Both members of the BiCam from the Senate and the House worked days and nights to agree and finish the BOL.

“We need a plebiscite to implement the law. Majority should approve of this, otherwise the ARMM areas shall continue to be administered under the ARMM law,” he said as quoted by Mr. Canlas in his report.

Senator Zubiri stressed that, “From transparency and accountability, to political party system, the system of governance to fiscal autonomy and strengthened self-governance, the BOL will be able to achieve what ARMM failed to do, which is to equally serve every Filipino living in the Bangsamoro area.”