MALACAÑANG ON Thursday said the final version of the Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) may be signed by President Rodrigo R. Duterte on Monday, July 23, after the Bicameral Conference Committee approved the draft law on Wednesday night.
“It’s possible that it will be on Monday,” said Presidential Spokesperson Harry L. Roque, Jr. regarding the BBL, now named the Organic law for the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM), or Bangsamoro Organic Law (BOL).
Once the proposed law is approved in a plebiscite scheduled later this year, the President can begin appointing members of the Bangsamoro Transition Authority (BTA).
The BTA will be composed of 80 members, who will also include representatives of indigenous communities, youth, women, settler communities, and traditional sectors, among others. Incumbent officials of the regional government will automatically be part of the BTA until June 30, 2019.
The proposed measure provides fiscal autonomy to the Bangsamoro government through the automatic allocation of the annual block grant, equivalent to 5% of net revenue collections of the Bureau of Internal Revenue and the Bureau of Customs.
Further, the Committee has also agreed on a 75%-25% wealth sharing allotment in favor of the Bangsamoro region. Taxing powers of the ARMM have also been preserved and will be increased as the bill now allows the Bangsamoro government to collect Capital Gains Tax, Donor’s Tax, Estate Tax and Documentary Stamp Tax.
The region will still remain under the authority of the Commission on Audit to ensure public accountability, in addition to the establishment of an internal auditing body to review the block grant.
The Bangsamoro government will also jointly explore and utilize with the national government, through the Department of Energy, natural resources within the region. The regional government will also be granted full control over their inland waters, except for bodies of water that contribute power to areas outside the region.
The Committee also adopted the House version on territorial jurisdiction, which provides that six municipalities in Lanao del Norte and 39 barangays in North Cotabato could vote for their inclusion in the region in a referendum.
Moreover, the BOL said the BTA will secure around 33,000 employees in health, education and social welfare to ensure continuity of services. Meanwhile, 3,000 employees are expected to be affected and retrenched by the transition.
Senator Juan Edgardo M. Angara, for his part, said the bicam-approved BOL is constitutional. “Naniniwala po tayo na ang nilalaman ng BBL na aprubado ng bicam ay naaayon sa Saligang Batas (We believe that the content of the BBL approved by the bicam is in accordance with the Constitution),” he said.
Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) chief negotiator Mohagher Q. Iqbal, meanwhile, sees the likelihood of the proposed measure being questioned before the Supreme Court.
“Well, that’s very, very probable, especially now that the BBL had already been passed in the Bicameral Conference and eventually the President will sign it, we expect that to go to the Supreme Court,” Mr. Iqbal told BusinessWorld in a phone interview, Thursday.
But he also expressed confidence that the bill is consistent with the 1987 Constitution. “Well, I’m not a lawyer, but my belief is that everything in the BBL is constitutional,” he said.
The government and proponents of the BOL, such as the Bangsamoro Transition Commission (BTC), are expected to campaign for the proposed measure ahead of the plebiscite.
Mr. Iqbal said they are “hopeful” the results of the plebiscite will be in favor of the landmark bill.
“We will work for that. We will try to talk to our people, explain to them the benefits being offered by the BBL. We’ll engage everybody,” he also said.
The Moro National Liberation Front was also sought for comment as of this reporting. — Charmaine A. Tadalan