Wrecking BOL

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Sulu Gov. Abdusakur Tan II has shown a lot of guts in trying to shoot down the Bangsamoro Organic Law (BOL) by seeking a court restraining order on it last Monday. His petition for certiorari and prohibition with a request for temporary restraining order (TRO) before the Supreme Court (SC) is the first challenge to the constitutionality of the BOL which Congress passed in July and President Duterte signed in August.

Tan is trying to overturn a law that was six years in the making and the former Bangsamoro Basic Law that 227 members of the House of Representatives passed on 30 May and 21 senators likewise approved on 31 May. Should Tan be able to convince the Supreme Court (SC) that the BOL is unconstitutional, he will be dismantling what many legislators from the present and previous Congresses had painstakingly crafted at a very high cost to taxpayers. A court victory will also be humiliating for all the legislators who labored to make the BOL constitutional.

The governor must really be brave in challenging what the 10,000-strong Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) has been aspiring for: a new version of a Bangsamoro homeland replacing the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM). And to think that the MILF army is just a stone’s throw away from Sulu, Tan must be so brave knowing the repercussions of another failed peace in Mindanao: mayhem.

And, of course, Tan is going up against the number one supporter of BOL, the President himself.

When Duterte signed the BOL into law on 26 July and signed it again on 6 August for ceremonial purposes, he said: “Let us give this law a chance to address the Bangsamoro people’s aspiration for genuine autonomy while preserving our bond as a single nation and affirming the sovereignty of the indivisible Republic of the Philippines.”

Tan would be killing the hopes and promise of Duterte if the High Court eventually rules in favor of his petition.

Although the constitutional challenge to the BOL was long expected, it just shows that the issue of peace in Mindanao through a Bangsamoro homeland is more than the Filipino Muslims’ complaint of being treated as a minority. They are actually divided politically with various groups trying to take control of a vast Muslim territory in the south or trying not to be controlled by the same power seekers. Why else would they want the abolition of the existing ARMM? Is it because they want the MILF to replace the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) in governing the ARMM?

The MILF was a breakaway group from the MNLF which pushed for the establishment of the first semi-autonomous Bangsamoro in the first place. The power struggle between the MILF of Al-Hadj Murad Ibrahim and MNLF of Nur Misuari has dragged non-Mindanaoans and civilians to a conflict that could have been settled by simply amending the law that created the ARMM to make it fully autonomous or by their reconciliation. That would have spared the loss of lives, property, time, effort and money.

Then there is the third party, the sultanate of Sulu or its sultans, trying to regain its influence, place and relevance in modern Mindanao.

The division among Mindanaoans on the BOL was evident in the five Mindanaoan representatives who voted against its passage in May and the abstention of two other House legislators from the region. So it was not surprising, though ironic, that a Sulu leader is also contesting the BOL in the SC.

Tan believes he has a strong case against the BOL which creates the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region (BAR). Its provision that if a province wants out of the BAR, the ARMM will vote as one to decide that province’s exit or retention. Under the current Constitution, however, only provinces and cities voting favorably for an autonomous region shall be part of it, according to Tan’s petition. He accused the MILF of trying to make a short-cut ratification of the BAR.

The BOL cannot abolish the ARMM which was created by the Consitution, according to Tan. Another provision making the form of the BAR government parliamentary is also contrary to the Constitution which requires an executive and legislative departments for autonomous regions, including the election of a chief executive.

What could be the motivation of Tan in opposing the BOL? Doesn’t he want peace in Mindanao? Why oppose something that has the approval of fellow Muslims when it can impact on his reelection bid in the mid-term elections next year? Certainly, he wouldn’t want more political enemies at this time.

But then, as a Liberal Party (LP) member, it’s just normal for Tan to play a spoiler’s role to the Duterte administration’s aspirations for a better Mindanao. It’s his business to be in sync with the opposition’s shame campaign against Duterte, never mind the mounting accusations of incompetence against him for allegedly failing to stop kidnapping and drug trafficking in Sulu.

As part of the yellow wrecking crew, Tan and the LP may score pogi points at the expense of the administration by getting that TRO. Nonetheless, a wrecking ball swings back to the swinger. Trying to trip Mindanaoans’ march to progress through peace may backfire for not giving BOL a chance to work.

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