Friday, November 28, 2014

Position Paper of Dr. Wilfrido Villacorta for the Public Hearing on the BBL on 18 November 2014


FROM THE WEBSITE OF OPPAP

Position Paper of Dr. Wilfrido Villacorta for the Public Hearing on the BBL on 18 November 2014

POSITION PAPER
Wilfrido Villacorta, Ph.D.
Member, 1986 Constitutional Commission;
Former Philippine Ambassador to ASEAN
Public Hearing on the Bangsamoro Basic Law
Sixteenth Congress
18th November, 2014
First of all, I would like to thank the ad hoc Committee on the Bangsamoro Basic Law for the honor of having been invited to this hearing.
This is indeed a unique opportunity for the Sixteenth Congress to contribute a historic milestone – lasting peace and justice for our Muslim brothers and sisters, as well as for the whole of Mindanao.  I support the Bangsamoro Basic Law, because it reflects the intent and provisions of the 1987 Constitution.
As we know, the Preamble of our Constitution aspires “to build a just and humane society” and to ensure “a regime of truth, justice, freedom, love, equality and peace.”  Our Constitution seeks to redress the injustices long suffered by the marginalized, as a result of their inadequate access to political and material resources of society.
The Bangsamoro Basic Law pulls the nation away from the battlefield and seeks to eventually realize the evasive peace imperative. It promises to usher in human and economic development — the dream of every Muslim, Christian and indigenous Filipino not only in Mindanao but in the entire Philippines. Its success will be one of the greatest achievements of the Philippines– the fruition of a model of regional autonomy that neighboring countries can emulate. Most of them have sizeable minority populations, such as China, Indonesia, Thailand, Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar and Viet Nam, and they await with much anticipation the outcome of the draft BBL.
In evaluating the Bangsamoro Basic Law, we should not be bound by extreme legalism, much less by our vested interests or by our prejudices and fears. We must look at the big picture and ponder on the long-term effects of our decision.
We should not regard the Bangsamoro government as just another local government unit. As provided in Article VI, “Intergovernmental Relations”, “the relationship between the Central Government and the Bangsamoro Government shall be asymmetric. This is reflective of the recognition of their Bangsamoro identity, and their aspiration for self-governance. This makes it distinct from other regions and other local governments (Section 1).”
There are a few who are afraid that the BBL is a mere stepping-stone to secession. They think that self-determination necessarily carries with it the right to become a national state with independence and sovereignty. We must not forget, however, that the applicable principle invoked in the case of the Bangsamoro government is the internal right to self- determination, which entails only self-governance and not independence.
The proposed Bangsamoro government is not a state or a semi-state.  Autonomous areas do not possess sovereignty and independence, which are essential elements of a state. Article III of the BBL entitled “Territory” declares that “The Bangsamoro territory shall remain a part of the Philippines.”
In international law, autonomous areas “are regions of a State, usually possessing some ethnic or cultural distinctiveness, which have been granted separate powers of internal administration, to whatever degree, without being detached from the state of which they are part.” (J. Crawford, The Creation of a State in International Law 211-212 (1979). See also Hurst Hannum and Richard B. Lilich, “The Concept of Autonomy in International Law.” American Journal of International Law. Vol. 74, no. 4 (October 1980). 858- 889.) Because they do not have a foreign-relations capacity, the authority of autonomous regions is of necessity limited.
In Article V, “Powers of Government,” the Reserved Powers pertain to matters over which authority and jurisdiction are retained by the Central Government: defense and external security, foreign policy, coinage and monetary policy, postal service, citizenship and naturalization, immigration, customs and tariff as qualified by Section 2 (10) of the Basic Law, common market and global trade, provided that the power to enter into economic agreements given to the ARMM under R.A, 9054 is hereby transferred to the Bangsamoro Government as provided in Article XII, Section 25 of the Basic Law, and intellectual property rights.
The provision on regional autonomy in the 1987 Constitution   addresses the responsibility to redress the humiliation, deprivation and prejudices suffered for centuries by our Bangsamoro brothers and sisters since the days of foreign colonization.  We have the moral obligation to put in place the much-needed institutions to avoid the mistakes of the past, and to chart a better destiny for our nation. It is more than a mandate of our fundamental law; it is the duty of our present generation to our children and grandchildren.  Cognizant that the Philippines is a war-weary nation which has been dragged to engage in armed conflicts not of its own making, the framers of the 1987 Constitution enshrined in Article II of the Declaration of Principles and State Policies that: “The Philippines renounces war as an instrument of national policy, adopts the generally accepted principles of international law as part of the law of the land and adheres to the policy of peace, equality, justice, freedom, cooperation, and amity with all nations (Section 2).”
At this juncture of our history, do we have a choice? Do we want Southern Philippines to become a wasteland ravaged by war, or do we want it to be the catalyst in fulfilling the dream of all Filipinos to be at the forefront of growth in ASEAN?
Now that we have gone this far in striking a landmark agreement with the Muslims, the lumads and the Christians in Bangsamoro areas, let us be just and magnanimous in allowing them the fullest possible autonomy. Let us secure the peace. Let us seize the moment!


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