By Camille A. Aguinaldo
and Charmaine A. Tadalan
SENATE MAJORITY Leader Juan Miguel F. Zubiri on Thursday said he is expecting the constitutionality of the proposed Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) to be challenged before the Supreme Court (SC) once enacted, claiming that some political clans and groups wanted the proposed measure to be derailed.
Tawi-Tawi Representative Ruby M. Sahali, for her part, claimed that Speaker Pantaleon D. Alvarez effectively risked his leadership by supporting a provision for a continuing plebiscite on inclusion in the BBL, which she said other lawmakers from Mindanao opposed.
Speaking at the Kapihan sa Senado forum in Pasay City, Mr. Zubiri said, “I am sure someone would file against this law in the Supreme Court after the President signs it. There are political clans who want to see this derailed. There are certain groups that don’t want this approved because this will change the landscape of the region.”
Without naming names, the senator, who sponsored the bill in the Senate, said some political families have disagreed with the proposed structure of the Bangsamoro government under the bill.
“Politicians and political families are angry at me now but I have to be a statesman here. I have to prevail over local political concerns. I apologize to them,” he said.
Mr. Zubiri said the bicameral conference committee version of the proposed BBL should be compliant with the 1987 Constitution in order to pass judicial review and to prevent the measure from being stalled. He also warned that if the bill becomes faulty, conflict may ensue in the region.
“This is the last step of the government in the comprehensive agreement with the Bangsamoro so the MILF (Moro Islamic Liberation Front) will surrender their arms and they will finally sign the final peace agreement. If the SC strikes this down, peace in Mindanao will definitely be endangered,” he said.
Both chambers of Congress passed the proposed BBL on third and final reading on its last day of session last May. According to House Majority Floor Leader Rodolfo C. Fariñas, the bicameral conference committee on the bill is set on July 9 to 13.
Congress is also expected to ratify the proposed measure in the morning of July 23 before the President delivers his third State of the Nation Address (SONA).
Mr. Zubiri also said he wanted to involve President Rodrigo R. Duterte and national security officials during the bicameral version committee hearing, especially on possible deadlock situations in the deliberations.
He also reiterated that the Senate version of the bill could withstand judicial review due to the amendments introduced by Senate Minority Leader Franklin M. Drilon.
“These simple words and phrases actually mean a lot in keeping compliance to constitutional requirement. I think the House (of Representatives) will accept these simple but very important amendments,” he said.
For his part, Moro Islamic Liberation Front first vice-chair Ghazali Jaafar said on Thursday, “When there is no BBL, there is no decommissioning for us. That is the policy.”
“If this BBL passed in Congress (and) brought into law is inutile, how can we sell it?” he also said at a forum on BBL and federalism.
Ms. Sahali, for her part, defended the House version of the bill, saying it retained 95% of the BBL version submitted by the Bangsamoro Transition Commission, chaired by MILF peace negotiator Mohagher Iqbal.
“The Bangsamoro Basic Law that we adopted in the House (of Representatives) was a law (that) if ratified, it would be accepted. (It has) political acceptability to all the people, it will withstand legal scrutiny of the Supreme Court, it is constitutionally defensible,” said Ms. Sahali, who was among those who pushed for the passage of the bill at the House of Representatives.
Sa totoo lang po (To be honest) in ensuring the House (delivers the) BBL, it almost collapsed the leadership of our Speaker,” she added.
“The whole congressmen from Mindanao (were) almost bolting off their support for the Speaker, kapag ni-retain pa rin ang (if we retained the) provision…(on) the continuing plebiscite for the next 25 years,” Ms. Sahali said.
But the periodic plebiscite was removed in the BBL version approved by the House on third and final reading.