CAGAYAN DE ORO CITY (MindaNews/11 April) – The chair of the House of Representatives’ Ad Hoc Committee on the Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) will push for the passage of the controversial law when the deliberations resume on April 20, minus eight provisions that he said are unconstitutional.
But Committee chair Rep. Rufus Rodriguez (2nd district, Cagayan de Oro) said he will ensure the new Bangsamoro region will have its fiscal autonomy.
“I will assure that it has money to spend for education, health and development,” he said.
Rodriguez said the fiscal-generating measures of the proposed region will come from the documentary taxes; land and water rights; income tax revenues and other revenues.
He said income generated from these tax measures should be given “100 percent” to the new Bangsamoro region.
“The region of Muslim Mindanao is among the poorest in the country. This money will help them catch up with the development of the rest of the country,” Rodriguez told
Archbishop Antonio Ledesma, NGOs and CSOs during the “Peaceful Conversations” forum held at the Archbishop’s House in Cagayan de Oro City Saturday morning.
Ledesma and the NGO leaders told Rodriguez they would like to see Congress pass the proposed Bangsamoro Basic Law.
“We cannot just waste 17 years of peace talks. This is the right time to pass the BBL,” Myrna Siose of the Cagayan de Oro Archdiocese said.
Rodriguez assured Ledesma and NGO leaders that he can muster enough support from the 75-member House Ad Hoc Committee to pass the BBL.
Questions of constitutionality
But Rodriguez said eight of the 250 provisions in the BBL will be deleted because of questions of constitutionality.
He said these are some provisions of Section 2 of the Powers of Government authorizing the new Bangsamoro administration to have its own version of the Commission on Elections; Ombudsman; Civil Service Commission; Commission on Audit; and Commission on Human Rights.
Rodriguez explained that the 1987 Constitution guarantees these agencies as “independent Constitutional agencies” that even Congress, the judiciary and the President cannot tinker with.
The proposed BBL provides that the creation of the Bangsamoro Commission on Audit is “without prejudice to the power, authority, and duty of the national Commission on Audit to examine, audit, and settle all accounts pertaining to the revenues and the use of funds and property owned and held in trust by any government instrumentality, including GOCCs;” the proposed Bangsamoro Civil Service Office which shall develop and administer Bangsamoro government employees and officers is also “without prejudice to the Civil Service Commission’s powers;” the Bangsamoro Electoral Office “shall be part of the Commission on Elections;” and the Bangsamoro Commission on Human Rights (BCHR) which shall have investigatory and prosecutorial powers shall in the performance of its functions, coordinate with the Commission on Human Rights.”
In the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM), the principal core territory of the Bangsamoro, the Regional Human Rights Commission (RHRC) was recently created as “an independent office that has the same powers and mandate as the national Commission on Human Rights” and “has primary and original jurisdiction to investigate, on complaint or on its own initiative, cases of human rights violations within the Autonomous Region, to include civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights,” the Commission said.
“Maybe what the MILF or new region can do is to ask these agencies to strengthen their regional offices. We might have a legal problem if we create a new regional office even if these are under the national offices,” he said.
Other provisions for deletion
Rodriguez said he would also push for the deletion of provisions that require the President to coordinate with the new region with regards to the operational conduct of the Armed Forces of the Philippines and Philippine National Police.
He said this provision runs against the principle of “one state-one army.”
The proposed BBL provides that the proposed Bangsamoro Police “shall be part of the Philippine National Police” and the proposed Bangsamoro Regional Police Board under Article XVI, Sections 5 and 6 “shall be part of the National Police Commission (Napolcom) and will perform the functions of the NAPOLCOM in the region.”
Rodriguez said the provision allowing areas outside the proposed Bangsamoro region to join if ten percent of the residents petition for inclusion, will be scrapped because of the opposition of Mindanao congressmen, governors and mayors.
“This will only promote instability and besides the successful peace agreements in Belfast and Aceh do not have this provision,” Rodriguez said,
The provision on the petition of 10 % of the residents is based on the Framework Agreement on the Bangsamoro. However, the petition, made available only for residents in areas which are contiguous to but outside the proposed core territory of the Bangsmaoro, can be approved only if majority of the qualified voters approve it in a plebiscite.
Rodriguez said what will be added are the United Nations guarantees to protect the indigenous peoples, their rights and culture.
“The new region will be a better place for the Lumads (Indigenous Peoples). Even under its original draft, Lumads are already guaranteed seats in its legislative assembly,” he said. (Froilan Gallardo / MindaNews with a report from Carolyn O. Arguillas)