BBL battle points

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Bangsamoro Assembly postponed
BTC Chairman Ghazali B. Jaafar (2nd from left) leads the submission of the draft Bangsamoro Basic Law to President Rodrigo R. Duterte on July 17, 2017. — BTC PHOTO

A MORE demanding version.

That is how Institute for Political and Electoral Reform Executive Director Ramon C. Casiple describes the revised Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) filed in the current Congress.

“Mas matigas ang BBL na ito kaysa sa original BBL,” he said in an interview, referring to expanded or additional provisions that he called “controversial constitutionally.”

Maki T. Datu-Ramos II, a former public lawyer who has gone into private practice and has worked as a legal consultant of one of the commissioners of the Bangsamoro Transition Commission, said among the “contentious issues will be the territorial expansion” of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) through a plebiscite.

“That would be constitutionally problematic because mother territories from respective LGUs (local government units) where constituents or officials of barangays, municipalities or cities subject for plebiscite might raise a constitutional issue before the Supreme Court,” said Mr. Ramos, a Maranao from Lanao del Sur, one of the ARMM provinces.

Article III of the proposed BBL covers provisions on “Territory”, which is defined as “the land mass as well as the maritime, terrestrial, fluvial and alluvial domains, and the aerial domain above it.”

It also clearly states that: “The Bangsamoro territory shall remain a part of the Philippines.”

The “Core Territory” would include the existing geographical area of the ARMM, plus the following:

  • Municipalities of Baloi, Munai, Nunungan, Pantar, Tagoloan and Tangkal in the province of Lanao del Norte, which is currently part of the Caraga Region;
  • All other barangays in the municipalities of Kabacan, Carmen, Aleosan, Pigkawayan, Pikit, and Midsayap that voted for inclusion in the ARMM during the 2001 plebiscite (these municipalities are under Cotabato, which is under the SOCCSKSARGEN Region);
  • Cotabato City, which is geographically within Maguindanao under the ARMM, but is administratively under SOCCSKSARGEN (the ARMM regional government complex is located in Cotabato City);
  • Isabela City, which is within the island province of Basilan under ARMM, but is administratively under the Zamboanga Peninsula Region; and
  • All other contiguous areas where there is resolution of the local government unit or a petition of at least ten percent (10%) of the registered voters in the area asking for their inclusion at least two months prior to the conduct of the ratification of the BBL and the process of delimitation of the Bangsamoro.

The draft BBL also opens “contiguous provinces, cities, municipalities, barangays, and geographic areas, other than those mentioned in the preceding Section, that obtain majority of the qualified votes cast in the periodic plebiscites, as provided under Article XV, Section 4, of this Basic Law shall become part of the Bangsamoro.”

Mr. Ramos also points to the provisions on “exclusive powers”, which he said are not mentioned specifically under the 1987 Constitution.

Article V covers the “Powers of Government.”

The Philippine government, referred to as the “Central Government”, would  retain authority over nine areas, including defense and external security, foreign policy; monetary policy; postal service; citizenship and naturalization; immigration; intellectual property rights; customs and tariff as qualified by Section 2(10), Article V of the BBL; and common market and global trade, but the power to enter into economic agreements given to the ARMM under Republic 9054 would be transferred to the new Bangsamoro government.

Shared authority between the Bangsamoro and Central governments would include land registration, social security and pension, and human rights and humanitarian protection, among other things.

On the other hand,  the Bangsamoro government would have “exclusive powers” over 58 items, covering much of economic activities, expropriation and eminent domain, social services, and development planning.

Mr. Casiple, meanwhile, cites the establishment of a Bangsamoro police force as an expected point of contention.

Article XI covers “Public Order and Safety” and Section 2 provides for the creation of the “Bangsamoro Police, which shall be organized, maintained, supervised, and utilized for the primary purpose of law enforcement and maintenance of peace and order in the Bangsamoro.”

The section does qualify that “It shall be part of the Philippine National Police” and that “It shall be responsible both to the Central Government and the Bangsamoro Government, and to the communities it serves.”

Mr. Casiple forecasts that the BBL “will be passed”.

“But not in its original form,” he added. The question then, he said, is “will the MILF accept what will be passed?”

Time will tell, opines Mr. Ramos. “We can only see what will happen if BBL is passed and implemented in the future. Every people in Mindanao and ARMM want peace. We are all tired of endless wars.” — Arjay L. Balinbin and Rosemarie A. Zamora