GENERAL SANTOS CITY (MindaNews / 12 Aug) – “CR” is Senate “Committee Report 200” or Senate Bill No. 2894, the substitute to SB No. 2408 or the original Draft Bangsamoro Basic Law. Submitted to the Senate last Monday with 17 senators signing, the bill will be sponsored by its author, Sen. Ferdinand R. Marcos, Jr., at the Senate plenary session today.
Marcos has told media that about 80 percent of the original version of the bill was amended, with 115 “major and minor” changes. He said in in his August 10 press release, “My legislative staff and I really worked on it and we did everything we could in order to ensure that the substitute bill can and will stand constitutional challenges. Also, we put things we deemed necessary so that it will be accepted by the people and will lay the groundwork for peace in Mindanao.”
This should be appreciated. But it is far from reassuring. Looking into SB No. 2894, we will see how Draft BBL has been watered down and diluted. We will just present two or three examples here. We will discuss more instances later.
First, a study group deplored the revision of the “Preamble” by the House Ad Hoc Committee on BBL in House Bill No. 5811. SB No. 2894 has NO PREAMBLE. The preamble is an invocation for divine providence and a solemn statement of the people of their intention in establishing their political entity. The two organic acts – RA No. 6734 and RA No. 9054 – have preambles. Why delete this in the BBL?
Second, the format of SB No. 2894 is just like a common statute – the sections numbered continuously, regardless of the articles. In the Constitution and the two Organic Acts of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao, in every article, the numbering of the sections starts with “1”; this is not so in SB No. 2894. By the deletion of the “Preamble”, the BBL is being treated just like any ordinary statute.
Third, Article VI, Section 23, on “Asymmetric Relationship”, adopted in toto Article VI, Section 1 of Draft BBL then clarified: “The asymmetric relationship refers to the relationship between the National Government and the Bangsamoro Regional Government as an Autonomous Region, as provided under Sec. 15, Article X of the 1987 Philippine Constitution, where the autonomous regions are granted more powers, and with less intervention from the National Government as compared to other territorial and political subdivisions.” (Bold italics ours)
This must be appreciated. But SB No. 2894 has “intervened more” and “lessened the powers” of Bangsamoro Autonomous Regions.
Fourth, as examples of “more interventions” and “lessening of powers”:
- In Draft BBL, Bangsamoro has 58 exclusive powers; SB No. 2894 reduced this to 42 or by almost 30 percent.
- On the relation of the Bangsamoro Government to its Constituent Local Government Units, Draft BBL provides, “…The privileges already enjoyed by the local government units under existing laws shall not be diminished unless otherwise altered, modified or reformed for good governance in accordance with a law to be enacted by the Bangsamoro Parliament.” (Bold italics ours)
This is provided in the Local Government Code of 1991. In Draft BBL, the Bangsamoro Government has the power to modify the relationship. SB No. 2498 handcuffs the Bangsamoro Autonomous Government, providing: “These powers, privileges and functions … shall not in any way be diminished.”
- In Article IX on the “Bangsamoro Justice System”, SB No. 2894, deleted five sections of Draft BBL Article X – Sec. 7: Bangsamoro Shari’ah High Court; Sec. 10: Shari’ah Judicial and Bar Council; Sec. 11: Consultant to the Judicial and Bar Council; Sec. 12: Composition of the Shari’ah Judicial and Bar Council; and Sec. 13: Functions of the Shari’ah Judicial and Bar Council.
We are not competent to comment on the deletion. However, is it within the competence of the Marcos Committee to modify the Shari’ah System?
The above are just a few of “about 80%” amendment “of the original version of the bill” and the “115 ‘major and minor’ changes’ – the deletions, revisions and additions. If by HB No. 5811, the Bangsamoro is less autonomous than the ARMM, by SB No. 2894, the Bangsamoro is the least compared to the Autonomous Governments under RA No. 6734 and RA No. 9054
And they elicit these questions:
- Is that how poorly Draft BBL had been drafted by the peace panels and the Bangsamoro Transition Commission?
- Is that how poorly it had been reviewed and revised by the legal team from the Office of the President, the Solicitor General and the Department of Justice?
It is most enlightening to compare Draft BBL, HB No.5811 and SB No. 2894 with reference to the Agreements and the revisions on the original BTC draft of Draft BBL. Have the chairs and members of the House and Senate Committees and all other members of the Congress done this? If not, are they willing to?
Can they honestly say that the deletions, revisions and additions are truly necessary to make Draft BBL constitutional, to refine its language and to make it acceptable to all; or, they are manifestations of the truth they are loath to admit – that they are anti-BBL?
[Author’s Note: Mind da News, the alternate of COMMENT, is a comment on current news. The author may be contacted at email@example.com.]