BANGSAMORO STAKEHOLDERS are preparing to push for the “best possible” version of the Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) that is up for deliberations in the Congressional bicameral conference committee.
Mohagher Q. Iqbal, chair of the Bangsamoro Transition Commission (BTC) that drafted the proposed BBL, said there’s “no turning back” in pushing for the long-overdue legislation.
“Our efforts now are geared towards finding a way to come up with the best possible BBL,” Mr. Iqbal, one of the leaders of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), told BusinessWorld in a phone interview.
The House version of the BBL was approved on third and final reading last Wednesday, May 30, and the counterpart measure in the Senate was passed last Thursday.
Mr. Iqbal said both versions have good points and problematic areas.
“Well, you want the best in the Senate and the House versions assembled together to produce a BBL,” he said
Mr. Iqbal declined to specify provisions so as not to “preempt” the bicameral conference.
He did say the House retained about 80% of the provisions in the original BBL draft, although much of the new provisions were substantive.
“Actually, kung titingnan, mas maraming na-retain sa House, mga 80% ang retained dun sa original BBL kaya lang ‘yung mga bagong provisions, karamihan doon substantive,” he said.
In the final version, the House Bill removed the provision on periodic plebiscites, which would allow wider inclusion of provinces in the proposed Bangsamoro region.
The BTC version had initially proposed to hold plebiscites every five years for a period of 25 years, but this was opposed at the House because of concerns on the Bangsamoro region’s “creeping expansion.”
Those included in the plebiscite are the present geographical area of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM), municipalities and barangays in Lanao del Norte, North Cotabato, Cotabato City, and Isabela City.
Contiguous areas may vote for their inclusion, following a resolution by the concerned local government or a petition of at least 10% of registered voters in the said areas, filed at least two months prior to the BBL’s ratification.
The Senate version also proposed conducting only one plebiscite upon enactment of the law.
Both chambers also moved to place the Bangsamoro police under the national government, a provision welcomed by the MILF leader.
“We don’t have an objection to that. Ang hinahanap lang namin dito ‘yung baka ma-improve pa, kasi may (bicameral) conference pa eh (What we’re looking for is simply whether that could be improved, because there’s still the bicameral conference.),” Mr. Iqbal said.
Mr. Iqbal said there are provisions he would propose to change, which is generally to retain in the new Bangsamoro region the provisions already granted to the ARMM.
The position of the BTC and MILF, he said, is “those provisions which are already given to the ARMM shall be retained, and I think I’m referring to the provisions provided for in the Senate version.”
“In the House, particularly, all those already given to the ARMM are preserved and retained,” he added.
The Senate version proposes to prohibit political dynasties, which the BTC opposes, according to Senate Minority Leader Franklin M. Drilon.
Mr. Iqbal said some provisions were also changed in the Senate bill, particularly wealth sharing under the provision on fiscal autonomy.
Both versions lowered block grants to 5%, but the Senate differed with the House in the portion of shared taxes, proposing a 50-50% share as opposed to the House version of 25% share for the national government and 75% for the Bangsamoro.
The Moro National Liberation Front, which is represented in the BTC, was sought for comment but has yet to respond as of this writing.
The bicameral conference committee is set to convene from July 9 to 13, according to House Majority Leader Rodolfo C. Fariñas.
Members of the House of Representatives included in the committee are: Reps. Fariñas, Pedro B. Acharon, Jr. Mauyag B. Papandayan, Jr., Ruby M. Sahali, Bai Sandra A. Sema, Juan Panlo Bondoc, Johnny Ty Pimentel, Eugene Michael B. de Vera, Arthur R. Defensor, RodolfoT. Albano III, Amihilha J. Sangcopan, Wilter W. Palma II, Lobregat, Mohamad Khalid Q. Dimaporo, Abdullah D. Dimaporo, Romeo M. Acop, Seth Frederick P. Jalosjos, and Shernee Abubakar Tan.
The Senate would be represented by Senators Drilon, Juan Edgardo M. Angara, Aquilino Martin L. Pimentel III, Sherwin T. Gatchalian, Emmanuel Joel J. Villanueva, Francis G. Escudero, and Risa N. Hontiveros-Baraquel. — Charmaine A. Tadalan