House passes proposed BBL, 50-17
REP. RUFUS RODRIGUEZ
MANILA, MAY 25, 2015 (INQUIRER) DJ Yap @inquirerdotnet -May 21st, 2015 - A clause was added to the proposed Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) at the last minute to allow at least 10 provinces outside the core territory of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) to join the new Bangsamoro region.
The BBL committee of the House of Representatives on Wednesday voted 50-17, with one abstention, to approve the bill, clearing the way for the submission of the measure, renamed Basic Law for the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region, to at least two other committees for further scrutiny.
The vote by the 75-member body ended three days of marathon sessions on the 109-page bill, marked by heated exchanges and allegations of Malacañang involvement in the preparation of the working draft and influencing the vote.
Lawmakers in the minority sounded alarm bells on Wednesday over a last-minute clause that could dramatically expand the territory of the Bangsamoro through plebiscites in the fifth or 10th year after the passage of the bill.
Under Article 3, Section 3, of House Bill No. 4996, “any local government unit (LGU) or geographical area outside the territorial jurisdiction of the Bangsamoro, but which are contiguous to any of the component units of the Bangsamoro and within the area of autonomy identified in the 1976 Tripoli Agreement, may opt to be part of the Bangsamoro by filing a petition of at least 10 percent of the registered voters of the interested LGU or geographical area.”
The same section states that petitions may be filed only in the fifth or 10th year after the enactment of the Bangsamoro law. Inclusion in the Bangsamoro region will be effective when approved by a majority vote in a plebiscite in directly affected political units.
Departure from original
This is a huge departure from the original provision in the version submitted to Congress by Malacañang, which read: “The areas [that] are contiguous and outside the core territory may opt at any time to be part of the territory upon petition of at least 10 percent of the registered voters and approved by a majority of qualified votes cast in a plebiscite.”
House Minority Leader Ronaldo Zamora said he was “shocked” by the reference to the Tripoli Agreement in the amended version of the BBL, which implied the provinces that voted against joining the ARMM in past plebiscites could still be subject to future petitions for a plebiscite to join the new Bangsamoro region.
“Did you notice the reference to the Tripoli Agreement?” he told reporters at the regular forum of minority lawmakers.
“Maybe people don’t know what this means: The provinces that they thought were not included, and who thought there was nothing to fear in the BBL, these congressmen who represent these provinces, may not realize that they may be included,” Zamora said.
The “area of autonomy” identified in the Tripoli deal signed in 1976 between the government and the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) spans the core territory of the ARMM covering the provinces of Basilan, Sulu, Tawi-Tawi, Lanao del Norte and Maguindanao.
The autonomy deal also covers eight other provinces outside the ARMM, as well as the cities and villages located in those provinces.
The eight provinces are Zamboanga del Sur, Zamboanga del Norte, North Cotabato, Sultan Kudarat, Lanao del Sur, Davao del Sur, South Cotabato and Palawan.
Also, two new provinces that did not exist in 1976—Zamboanga Sibugay, which was carved out of Zamboanga del Norte, and Sarangani, which was carved out of South Cotabato—would be included.
Thus, 10 provinces would be covered under the “opt-in” provision of the Bangsamoro draft law.
“Do the congressmen voting so readily for these provisions understand that they are now in play?” Zamora said. “Whether you voted against inclusion in previous plebiscites [to join the ARMM], you’re now back in play.”
Zamboanga del Norte Rep. Seth Frederick Jalosjos said it was clear that “not just core territories” would be affected but all the provinces under the Tripoli Agreement.
“We’re talking about opt-in, but there’s no opt-out. This is a very dangerous provision,” he said.
YACAP Rep. Carol Jayne Lopez said that including the ARMM provinces, the opt-in provision would cover 15 provinces “involving 28 congressmen,” whose constituencies might not welcome the idea of joining the Bangsamoro.
The BBL committee chair, Cagayan de Oro Rep. Rufus Rodriguez, moved to have the original opt-in provision deleted from the bill on a recommendation of the Peace Council.
Added in Malacañang
But the clause, including the reference to the Tripoli Agreement, was apparently added when Rodriguez and other lawmakers met with President Aquino in Malacañang to draft the final version of the BBL bill on Sunday, the eve of the vote.
It was this “chairman and vice chairpersons’ working draft” that was adopted, voted on and approved by the committee from Monday to Wednesday.
Rodriguez, however, dismissed fears about the inclusion of provinces in the Tripoli Agreement.
He told reporters that the province opting in would have to satisfy the requirement of contiguity to be subject to the plebiscite. If the province does not share a border with the core territory, then it will not be covered, he explained.
Speaker Feliciano Belmonte Jr. was not too concerned about the Tripoli clause, noting that even the ARMM core territory would have to ratify the proposed Bangsamoro law.
“You will notice the current ARMM will also be subject to new voting,” Belmonte said in a text message.
He said amendments could still be introduced during the plenary debates.
But minority lawmakers were jittery about the clause.
During the voting on Tuesday, a number of congressmen attempted to remove the reference to the Tripoli Agreement, but they were outvoted by the administration’s allies.
South Cotabato Rep. Pedro Acharon moved for the deletion of the phrase “within the area of autonomy identified in the 1976 Tripoli Agreement.” His motion was defeated, 12-37.
Zamboanga City Rep. Celso Lobregat also tried to have the entire opt-in provision taken out. He lost by a 17-35 vote.
Palawan Rep. Frederick Abueg attempted to remove his province from coverage by adding the phrase “excluding Palawan” after the clause on the Tripoli Agreement, but his motion was lost, 12-33.
On Wednesday, Malacañang’s allies celebrated the passage of the bill.
“Our vote this afternoon is a historic vote to address centuries of inherited disadvantages inflicted on our Muslim brothers and sisters … an affirmative action to correct centuries of neglect and injustices inflicted on the Muslim sector,” Rodriguez said.
“I am from Mindanao and I wish to see the day that children of our Muslim brothers will have the same opportunities as the children of Christian communities: good education, health, and employment opportunities,” he said.
“I wish to see the day in Mindanao that no one of our Muslim brothers and sisters will be left behind,” Rodriguez said in closing the committee deliberations on HB 4996.
The body, which spent almost nine months in public hearings and executive sessions, in and out of the House, finished accepting amendments to the bill on a page-by-page basis just before 11 p.m. on Tuesday.
Rousing applause met the completion of the per-section voting after 12 straight hours, and Rodriguez congratulated the body for “being on the right side of history.”
Only the appendix, the title, and the final clean draft that would serve as the committee report, were put to a vote on Wednesday, each winning by large margins.
Each of the panel members was asked to stand and vote yes or no by roll call, and those who wanted to explain their votes did so afterward.
The bill, now reduced to 89 pages after the committee amendments, is still some way from enactment at the House. It is to be submitted next week to the committees on appropriations, and ways and means, which will pore through the funding and revenue-generating sections.
Then it will be subject to plenary deliberations and put to a final vote on third reading by the 290-strong chamber.
Lobregat, one of the vocal critics of the bill, said he reserved the right to put forth more questions about the validity and constitutionality of the proposed law during plenary deliberations.
On Wednesday, he was still in fighting form, proposing changes but outvoted every time by the majority.
In explaining his no vote, Lobregat said: “I am for peace. I am not antipeace, but we need a Bangsamoro Basic Law that is just, that is fair, that is acceptable and feasible, and most important, consistent with the Constitution and existing laws.”
“We listened to the voice of those for the BBL and those against. Unfortunately, there are many, many, many provisions in this basic law that really go against our Constitution, that make it very difficult for people of adjoining areas, and also, many provisions that are very ambiguous,” he said.
The lone abstention came from Representative Abueg, who said he wanted to consult his constituents on how to vote on the measure.
He cited concerns about the opt-in provision that effectively covered Palawan.
Nothing is new
“It’s a gray area for us, if we would be included. But for new situations, we reserve our vote in the plenary…. This is not only my call, but my whole province,” Abueg said.
AMIN Rep. Sitti Turabin-Hataman, in explaining her vote, said: “I say yes today because the Bangsamoro Basic Law is a recognition of our right to self-determination.”
“Nothing in this law is new to us. It does not change our history. Nothing in this law gives us new rights. Nothing is given [that] was not already ours hundreds of years ago,” she said.
But Hataman said her vote came with reservations as she saw a lot of room for improvement, particularly in consistence with the previous peace agreements.
Magdalo Rep. Gary Alejano said he voted no because he had yet to see sincerity on the part of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), recalling the Jan. 25 clash in Mamasapano, Maguindanao, where more than 60 people died, including 44 police commandos, and 17 MILF fighters.
He reiterated his demand that the MILF surrender its men involved in the Mamasapano clash to regain public trust.
Maguindanao and Cotabato City Rep. Sandra Sema thanked the panel “in the name of the Bangsamoro people, and in the name of the MILF and the MNLF, who have long struggled for peace.
“We thank our colleagues for supporting the BBL, and for putting back hope that the Bangsamoro people, too, can live peacefully and have a chance for a better life just like the rest of us,” she said.
ARMM Gov. Mujiv Hataman welcomed the committee approval of the proposed Bangsamoro law.
“This is a great step toward the goal of achieving lasting peace in Muslim Mindanao,” Hataman said. “This is a great step toward the self-determination we have long been fighting for.–With a report from Ryan D. Rosauro, Inquirer Mindanao
Rethinking the BBL Rex D. Lores @inquirerdotnet 12:45 AM | Tuesday, May 12th, 2015
FROM THE intense national discourse on the Bangsamoro Basic Law, it is apparent that the Moro homeland concept is undermined by constitutional infirmities. Short of absolute sovereignty, the Bangsamoro will have all the attributes of a state—a caliphate, if you will: a defined territory, a permanent population, and a government that mimics every aspect of the central government.
There is considerable skepticism about the BBL because it goes against the grain of a key constitutional precept, the inviolability of the separation of Church and State.
While it scrupulously tries to evade any reference to Islam, it stumbles in the sections on concurrent and exclusive powers, making it clear that Shari’ah law will prevail and the Bangsamoro will operate according to the strictures of this faith.
The difficulty here is that the strands of governance, law, conduct and religion are tightly woven in Islam. It will be fascinating to see how Congress will reform provisions that funnel taxpayer money into a Shari’ah justice system, madrasas, and a range of religious activities that underpin Islamic society.
Our main concern here is that Shari’ah and madrasas might inhibit the growth of knowledge and literacy rates in a way that, in turn, will also inhibit the Bangsamoro’s capacity to adapt to the startling pace of technology, modernization and innovation.
Thus far, the debate has been marred not so much by the Mamasapano incident as by a claim, bordering on treason, of the presidential adviser on the peace process—the claim that the alternative to the BBL is war. This, of course, is silly; her role should be to acknowledge that there can be a choice between varying visions of transformation in Muslim Mindanao. Appeasement and the threat of terrorism cannot be the bases for peace and long-term national goals in any part of our republic.
On a more crucial level, the debate is raising important questions about the durability of our institutions, about the legitimacy of our political vision as articulated in the principles of our Constitution, and about our capacity to shape our future as a pluralistic society.
These questions have been simmering long enough in the marginalization of Filipino minorities.
There is, of course, enough blame to assign to government, for its gross ineptitude; and to traditional Muslim hierarchy, for maintaining a paradigm that has kept Muslims in bondage.
Obviously, it will take decades as well as extraordinary leadership in both the regional and national levels to rectify historic miscalculations, social neglect and political irresponsibility that are at the roots of the conflict between government and our Muslim community.
The shame of the past looms in our consciousness. More than enough blood, treasure and tears have been shed on both sides over the last 47 years. And the only way to redeem these sacrifices is to transform Mindanao from an arena of low-intensity warfare into a perpetual zone of peace.
However, this cannot be achieved by erecting barriers to national integration. More so, it cannot be done by pandering to armed groups or ethnic nationalists or by trivializing our responsibility to our citizens of whatever creed, religion or ethnicity.
Muslims in the Bangsamoro will remain our compatriots. Yet we will allow these citizens—whom we are sworn to safeguard under the equal protection clause of our laws—to be subjected to the Shari’ah justice system and perhaps even to “crimes” not recognized as such under the Philippine penal code?
It is important, therefore, to rethink the implications of the BBL. Having said that, I believe that we are resilient and sturdy enough as a people to allow the Muslim identity to flourish. We can transcend our ancient biases and misapprehensions to see the Bangsamoro as a mutual desire to build an Islamic community based on the rule of law.
In many countries, autonomous regions and special administrative territories are common, each with varying degrees of authority and devolution. We should be unafraid to help chart the Bangsamoro people’s aspirations to consolidate their political future, identity and posterity. Nothing historic or significant will be achieved if we treat ideological and religious barriers as insurmountable.
When a variation of the BBL is passed into law, what government must do is to focus on making the Bangsamoro work to our mutual advantage, given the deep divisions in Islamic society. Yesterday it was the Moro National Liberation Front; today, it is the Moro Islamic Liberation Front. And tomorrow may well generate a new dominant armed group that will bring us back to square one.
It is to our paramount interest to prevent the rise of absolutist tribal politics and to encourage negotiation and compromise in the Bangsamoro. Thus an important revision of the BBL should include some of the mechanisms proposed by Arturo L. Tiu in his insightful commentary on “Inclusive leadership” (Opinion, 5/9/15).
Finally, we should overcome our pessimism. The rise of the Bangsamoro represents an extraordinary opportunity to build political, social and economic institutions that will enhance our own quest for stability, progress and peace. Toward this end, the BBL should enshrine the imperative that: “The Bangsamoro Government shall ensure democracy, human rights, the rule of law, and transparency mechanisms consistent with open government practices.” This must be a fundamental principle, not a colatilla to the auditing function.
Rex D. Lores (firstname.lastname@example.org) is a member of the Philippine Futuristics Society.
House rubberstamps Noy’s BBL version Written by
Gerry Baldo Thursday, 21 May 2015 00:00
DANGEROUS PROVISIONS REMAIN — SOLONS
The House ad hoc panel on the proposed Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) yesterday rubberstamped the measure seeking to create a Muslim substate handed down by the Palace with a vote of 50 against 17, one abstained, clearing the way for the bill to be tackled in the House plenary.
Zamboanga City Rep. Celso Lobregat, who has been
continuously frustrated in introducing amendments to the BBL said dangerous
provisions continue to exist in the draft.
The provision granting the Bangsamoro chief minister operational control and supervision over the region’s police must be removed, Lobregat said.
He said the Bangsamoro chief minister having control over the police force in the proposed political entity gives him too much power.
Anakpawis Rep. Fernando Hicap labeled the approved BBL as “inedible for the Moro masses.” “The supposed interest of the poor sectors of the Moro people is inexistent in BBL, hence, our vote was ‘no’,” Hicap said after the conclusion of the voting.
Hicap noted the amended BBL provisions such as in Article
VIII regarding Basic Rights, and on Social Justice provisions, were devoid
of any mention of the farmers’ rights to land or any concretization of
genuine agrarian reform program within the Moro area.
“We consider that the Moro people are marginalized as its majority, the farmers do not have any land, the vast tracks of lands are controlled by big landlords and warlords. BBL did not resolve this, instead, it would worsen it,” Hicap said.
Members of the House Minority bloc warned their colleagues against voting in favor of the BBL when it goes to the plenary.
House Minority Leader Ronaldo Zamora of San Juan City, House Deputy Minority Leader Carol Jayne Lopez and Zamboanga Rep. Seth Jalosjos shared the view that the proposed BBL would allow contiguous cities and municipalities to the Bangsamoro core area and provinces under the 1976 Tripoli agreement to be part of the Bangsamoro Region with a petition of at least 10 percent of the registered voters and approved by a majority of qualified votes cast in a plebiscite.
The Bangsamoro core area is composed of the existing Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao, municipalities of Baloi, Munai, Nunungan, Pantar, Tagoloan and Tangkal in Lanao del Norte and all other barangays in the Municipalities of Kabacan, Carmen, Aleosan, Pigkawayan, Pikit and Midsayap that voted for inclusion in the Autonomous Region during the 2001 plebiscite, as well as the cities of Cotabato and Isabela.
The Tripoli Agreement, on the other hand, covered 13 provinces for the formation of an autonomous government for the Bangsamoro People including: Basilan, Sulu, Tawi-tawi, Zamboanga del Sur, Zamboanga del Norte, North Cotabato, Maguindanao, Sultan Kudarat, Lanao del Norte, Lanao del Sur, Davao del Sur, South Cotabato, Palawan.
Since Sarangani was still a part of South Cotabato and Zamboanga Sibugay belonged to Zamboanga del Sur during the time that the Tripoli Agreement was signed in 1976, these provinces can opt to join the Bangsamoro Region through a plebiscite within five to 10 years after the BBL is enacted into law.
“There are areas that were included now even if these were already excluded in the previous plebiscite (in 2001). Why are these suddenly in play? And what would prevent other places from following suit? They (lawmakers) should start listening not just to their conscience but to what their constituents are saying (on the BBL),” Zamora said in a news conference.
“This autonomy should be for genuine reforms, but it does not address the root causes of the problem they call historical injustices. The BBL does not even have a provision on how to stop the low-level fighting,” Zamora added.
The motion made by Zamboanga City Rep. Celso Loberegat to remove the opt-in provision had been earlier defeated in a rout, 17-35.
“With the opt-in provision, the Bangsamoro [Region] can cover as much as 28 districts. Sarangani will never be a part of the Bangsamoro,” Lopez pointed out.
Jalosjos said that the opt-in provision is dangerous.
“This will have a huge effect on our constituents. There is no opt-out. And for the record, Zamboanga del Norte will never be a part of Bangsamoro,” Jalosjos added.
Buhay Partylist Rep. Lito Atienza exhorted his colleagues not to tread on dangerous ground in approving the BBL that is fraught with provisions that are deemed unconstitutional.
“They planned it all. That will be the same process in the plenary. They will force it down the throats of the members and therefore we must prepare for ways to get the public to know what’s going on. We may not have the numbers on the floor but definitely, the people are behind the efforts to prevent the BBL, as crafted by the administration, to get through unchanged,” Atienza said
Atienza also lamented the seeming transformation of many members from thinking intelligently and articulating on the controversial provisions earlier were clearly changed by that Malacañang meeting.
“We understand the meeting in Malacañang started in the afternoon, midday and lasted till midnight. They must have talked about very important matters. But the public will definitely suspect that the majority members have been given incentives to change their minds and positions,” he added.
“There’s a saying that the proof of the pudding is in the eating. The overnight injection of timidity and blind subservience to the orchestrated efforts is deplorable. Orchestrated because it is very clear that the numbers have already been assured. Every vote between 35-40 assuring the defeat of every amendment effort, as well as assuring the agenda of the administration that the BBL, unchanged in many parts, is passed by Congress,” Atienza added.
Senate battle for BBL next
Sen. Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos, Jr., chairman of the Senate local government committee, yesterday expressed hope the scenario that unfolded in the BBL deliberations of the ad hoc committee of the House of Representatives will not happen in the Senate.
After a marathon 13-hour session that began Tuesday, the House panel finished Tuesday line-by-line voting on the 109-page draft bill, with the Malacanang version virtually intact save for some minor concessions to proposed amendments of BBL critics.
A progressive block of legislators in the Lower House cried “railroading” when the ad hoc panel, after meeting with the President twice, abandoned amendments previously discussed contained in the so-called “chairman’s draft” and pushed for an entirely new version.
“I don’t think so because our senators are very independent-minded,” Marcos replied when asked in a radio interview if he is concerned about the possibility the BBL will also be railroaded in the Senate.
Marcos said that in fact his meticulous and detailed scrutiny of the draft BBL was based on the suggestion of his fellow senators.
Still, Marcos said it could be expected for the members of the administration party and their allies to support the Palace version.
So far, Marcos said that except from some billboard and media campaigns directed at him personally he has not felt any direct pressure on him to rush the passage of the BBL in his committee.
After two more hearings for sectors who felt left out in the process, one on May 25 for the sultanates and indigenous people, and another on June 3 for local government officials, Marcos his panel could buckle down to the task of writing its report.
The senator has been saying that for BBL to work it should be all-inclusive and that it should be backed by popular support.
However, public attitude toward BBL has been eroded after the January 25 Mamasapano incident as reflected in the recent Social Weather Station survey showing only 23 percent of the Filipino people support the passage of the proposed law.
Just a matter of time
Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) Gov. Mujiv Hataman lauded the House AdHoc committee for its approval of the bill.
“We are almost there, it’s just a matter of time,” Hataman said in an interview.
“The decision is proof that the calls for peace for Mindanao have reached the walls of Congress,” Hataman said.
“Thank you for speaking for peace for the Bangsamoro,” said Hataman on Wednesday afternoon after the committee approved the BBL.
“We are almost there. Yes, there were amendments, but we hope that these changes will make for a better Bangsamoro Basic Law,” he added.
Government chief peace negotiator Prof. Miriam Coronel-Ferrer was similarly elated as she noted that substantive elements of the proposed law were retained “in response to the call of the Bangsamoro people for genuine autonomy.”
“We have been monitoring the proceedings in Congress since Monday and we definitely appreciate that our honorable representatives have exerted all efforts and and responded to the call of the people to draft a BBL consistent with the CAB (Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro) and in accordance to the 1987 Philippine Constitution,” she said.
The line by line voting on the specific provisions on the proposed BBL started Monday afternoon.
The lawmakers resumed their session early morning Tuesday and adjourned once more around 11 p.m. The Ad Hoc Committee continued its proceedings today for referral of the bill to the House committee on appropriations and the committee on ways and means before submission to plenary.
According to Ferrer, the three most substantive elements of the BBL were carried in the amended draft of the ad hoc committee.
Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process Teresita Quintos Deles also hailed the passage of the BBL saying “this is a good day in our quest for just and lasting peace as the draft BBL is one step closer to passage, having been approved on the committee level.”