ILIGAN CITY (MindaNews / 12 August) — The draft Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) may finally be on its way to Congress by Monday, August 14, exactly four weeks after it was submitted to President Rodrigo Duterte on July 17.
This, as former Philippine President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, now Pampanga’s second district Representative to Congress, filed House Bill 6121 creating the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region.
“The documents are already with the Presidential Legislative Liaison Office (PLLO) and may be submitted (to the two houses of Congress) by Monday,” Presidential Spokesperson Ernesto Abella said Saturday, in reply to MindaNews’ query on where the draft law is.
Secretary Jesus Dureza, Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process, told MindaNews last Monday (August 7) that “per PLLO (Adelino Sitoy), copy sent na to Congress but cannot be enrolled unless may author. So please ask Congress members why no one has authored it yet.”
On August 9, Tawi-tawi Rep. Ruby Sahali, chair of the House Committee on Peace, Reconciliation and Unity told members of the Bangsamoro Transition Commission (BTC), the body that drafted the BBL, that the draft BBL had not been transmitted to the House.
The BTC members also paid a courtesy call on House Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez, Jr. who also informed them that the draft BBL has not reached them.
On Friday, August 11, Maguindanao Rep. Bai Sandra Sema, the Deputy Speaker for Mindanao, told MindaNews that the the draft BBL was “still awaiting official transmittal from the Palace.”
While the transmittal of the draft BBL has taken so long, former President Arroyo, filed House Bill 6121 or Basic Act for the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region (BABAR) at 2:10 p.m. on August 3.
The BABAR appears to be a resurrection of former Senator Ferdinand Marcos, Jr.’s proposed Basic Law for the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region (BLBAR). MindaNews noted that HB 6121 lifted provisions verbatim for the most part from the Marcos version, and in fact contains the same number of articles — 17 — same titles of articles and the same number of sections — 215.
Marcos chaired the Senate Committee on Local Governments which filed the BLBAR as substitute bill to the draft BBL filed by the then 15-member BTC.
It was under Arroyo’s administration when the Memorandum of Agreement on Ancestral Domain (MOA-AD) between government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) was initialed but its formal signing on August 5, 2008 was aborted due to a temporary restraining order issued by the Supreme Court a day earlier.
Four weeks in transit
The draft BBL was submitted by the Bangsamoro Transition Commission (BTC), the 21-member body composed of 11 representatives from the MILF and 10 from the government, on July 17 in rites held in Malacanang and witnessed by Senate President Aquilino Pimentel III and House Speaker Alvarez.
Duterte, Pimentel and Alvarez are all Mindanawons. Duterte, the first Mindanawon President and the first with Moro blood (his grandmother was a Maranao), had repeatedly vowed as a Presidential candidate and later as the President, to address the historical injustices against the Bangsamoro.
After receiving a copy of the draft BBL from BTC chair Ghazali Jaafar, Duterte declared that “within the context of the Republic of the Philippines, there shall be a Bangsamoro country.”
He vowed to “support and husband” the proposed BBL in Congress to ensure the passage of the law that would create the Bangsamoro, a new autonomous political entity that would replace the 27-year old Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM).
The creation of the Bangsamoro was agreed upon by the government (GPH) and the MILF under the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro (CAB) signed on March 27, 2014.
The agreement envisions a new entity that would realize the aspirations of the Bangsamoro people for genuine self-determination under a ministerial form of government and ensure autonomy far more than what the present ARMM provides.
Duterte reiterated “there will be no objections (to) the provisions of all that is consistent with the Constitution and the aspiration of the Moro people.”
He noted that after decades of armed struggle and violence, “we will soon come up with a constitutionally consistent legal instrument that will lay the foundation for establishing real and lasting peace in Mindanao.”
Duterte said the draft BBL, jointly written by Muslims, Christians, and Lumads “shall give rise to a genuine autonomous region as well as bring forth healing and reconciliation to the historical injustices committed against the Bangsamoro people.”
In his second State of the Nation Address (SONA) on July 24, a full week after the submission of the draft BBL, Duterte, who was expected to call on Congress to immediately pass the BBL, made no such call.
The President, however, is expected to certify the Bangsamoro bill as urgent, in accordance with the peace agreement.
Under the Aquino administration, Congress adjourned in 2016 without passing the Bangsamoro law.
The two houses of Congress filed substitute bills after their respective committee hearings, both titled Basic Law for the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region (BLBAR), which the MILF and even the government peace panel claimed, did not comply with the CAB and instead envisioned a Bangsamoro less autonomous than the ARMM it sought to replace. (Carolyn O. Arguillas / MindaNews)