PRIVILEGE SPEECH: I am for peace but not for appeasement at the expense of the Republic

(Privilege Speech delivered by Zamboanga City Rep. Celso Lobregat on 2 February 2016 at the House of Representatives in Quezon City). 

To me and to many, the ARMM is not a failed experiment. It was not a failure of the law either. It has been said that the Constitution is only as good as the people that implement it. The failure in the ARMM was a failure of governance and leadership. During the governorship of Gov. Mujiv Hataman starting 2013 and with the necessary budget support and dramatic increase in funding, so much has been done and improved in such a short time.

The ARMM need not be abolished.

1. Abolishing the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao and Repeal of RA 9054 – its implications and why this is not acceptable to many residents of the ARMM especially the MNLF-Misuari faction.

Going back to the 1976 Tripoli Agreement, the mother of all agreements with Muslims in Southern Philippines, was achieved at the height of the war and rebellion in Mindanao.

The MNLF headed by Nur Misuari.

One of the main reasons for the inclusion of the provisions on the creation of Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao in the 1987 Constitution is the Tripoli Agreement of 1976.

The pertinent provisions in the 1987 Constitution

– Article X, Sec. 15. There shall be created autonomous regions in Muslim Mindanao and in the Cordilleras consisting of provinces, cities, municipalities and geographical areas sharing common and distinctive historical and cultural heritage, economic and social structures and other relevant characteristic within the framework of  this Constitution and the national sovereignty as well as territorial integrity of the Republic of the Philippines,

– Article X, Sec. 19. The first Congress elected under this Constitution shall, within eighteen months from the time of organization of both Houses, pass the organic acts for the autonomous regions in Muslim Mindanao and the Cordilleras.

The Constitution was ratified and included therein were the pertinent provisions for the creation of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao and the organic law (RA 6734) was enacted and a plebiscite was called for the purpose but Misuari and the MNLF boycotted the elections. His reason, because it did not reflect or did not conform to the spirit and intent of the 1976 Tripoli Agreement.

So then the Ramos administration conducted and concluded a final peace agreement with the MNLF as led by Chairman Nur Misuari who was recognized as the representative of the Muslims in Southern Philippines by the OIC countries And in the Final Peace Agreement it stated that was to be enacted an amendatory law to the Organic Act (RA 6734) and in that amendatory law, it would include pertinent provisions of the Final Peace Agreement and the expansion of the present ARMM area.

RA 9054 was enacted and was the amendatory law to the Organic Act and include the pertinent provisions of the FPA and expansion.

So since the FAB provides for the replacement of the ARMM and abolition of the ARMM and the Annex on Transitional Arrangements and Modalities provides for the repeal of RA 9054 and so does the proposed BBL/BLBAR. This gives rise to the statement or position of Nur Misuari that “this for us is, technically, tantamount to an abrogation of the 1996 peace agreement.”

Why does the ARMM have to be abolished and why does RA 9054 have to be repealed?

The ARMM has to be replaced (abolished) and RA 9054 repealed because that is what the MILF wants – and if you want to strike a bargain to get an agreed and signed piece of paper, agree ka na lang.

For the MILF, the passage of the BBL as is and without any changes, is the only alternative to peace but for the MNLF, the abolition of the ARMM and the repeal of RA 9054 is tantamount to the abrogation of the 1996 peace agreement.

We had the Final Peace Agreement (FPA) with the MNLF, the official representative of the Bangsamoro since 1996, figuratively we had a bird on hand, now what do we have – two in the bush.

2. The Passage of the BBL without revisions

This leads to one of the final issues related to the BBL-BLBAR and also of my Turno en Contra. The Passage of the BBL without revisions.

On July 29, 2015, the Bangsamoro Transition Commission (BTC), the body that drafted the BBL approved Resolution No. 005 Series of 2015.

“A Resolution to support the passage of the Bangsamoro Basic Law in its original form, which was sponsored in the Lower House and Upper House of Congress as House Bill No. 4994 and Senate Bill No. 2408, respectively”

On the same day, this Resolution was transmitted to Speaker Feliciano Belmonte Jr. in a letter of same date signed by Mohagher Iqbal, Chairman of the BTC.

Published in the Philippine Star July 30, 2015 issue:  “MILF wants BBL passed without revision”
Published in the Philippine Star August 6, 2015 issue:  “House urged to restore 28 deleted BBL provisions”

Published in the Manila Bulletin August 10, 2015 issue:  “Palace appeals for passage of BBL ‘as is’”

Headlined in the Manila Bulletin Issue of August 18, 2015: “Iqbal: ‘Deboned’ BBL unacceptable MILF may resort anew to armed struggle, ‘blame and shame’ game”

I vividly recall that during the period of interpellation on September 23 and December 9, 2015, I specifically brought out this issue and asked the Chairman Rufus Rodriguez the reasons why the Ad Hoc Committee deleted each of these 28 provisions. And I stated the reason why I was asking the Chairman was not only for the record, but for all of our colleagues and most especially the Bangsamoro Transition Committee and the MILF to know the reasons.

The Chairman emphatically and forcefully said that none of the 28 provisions will be restored and this was relayed to the BTC. Chairman Rodriguez acceded to answer and give the reasons why each provision was deleted.

In summary, based on the reply of Chairman Rufus Rodriguez, the reasons for the deletion of the provisions are:
14 provisions were deleted because of the issue of CONSTITUTIONALITY 1 provision deleted because of the CHARACTERISTIC OF A SUB-STATE
16 provisions deleted because of NATIONAL INTEREST
1 provision deleted because of CONFLICT WITH EXISTING LAW
1 provision deleted because of the issue of POWER OF GOVERNMENT

Just to clarify if the reasons are totaled, this will add to more than 28 because in some provisions, there was more than one reason for its deletion.

This leads me to the very first public consultation of the Ad Hoc Committee – September 24, 2014. When it was my turn to raise questions – the very first question I asked:

“What if certain provisions in the Draft BBL / HB-4994 will be amended, revised, deleted or provisions added, will the MILF agree or will it be a “take it or leave it” position wherein the MILF will insist in the implementation of all agreements?”

The answer given by Secretary Deles:

“…we reiterate that the agreement, all of the agreements signed between the government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front, were a political agreement. It is an Executive commitment and of course it needed to be said that we are fully committed to its full implementation in all its seriousness and the statements that were put there. It was important to ensure that the agreement was not just going to be a signed piece of paper. It was going to be closely and vigorously implemented. And that includes the commitment of the Executive to help to shepherd this law through Congress. But as a political agreement, of course this does not take away from the prerogative of Congress. Congress is the lawmaking body. By the Constitution, we cannot diminish that power.”

The answer given by BTC Chairman Iqbal was as follows:

“…it has been our policy in the MILF that we trust the collective wisdom of both Houses of Congress, the Senate and the House, to pass a good legislation. Secondly, we have been very consistent that we are not answering hypothetical question. So that’s all.”

My dear colleagues, this is not a hypothetical question – this is a live, real and volatile situation.

Last December 29, 2014, in a letter of Al Haj Murad Ibrahim addressed to Chairman Rufus Rodriguez. Part of the letter reads:

 “As such, the MILF negotiated its peace agreement with the understanding that it was negotiating with the totality of the Philippine government or “whole of government”, especially since, among other reasons, the Commander-in-Chief powers of the President allows him to bind the whole of government including its different branches.

 “Due to the foregoing circumstances, we trust that Congress will pass the mutually-agreed BBL draft with no changes and without diminishing, diluting or watering-down its provisions, except probably for minor changes that clearly improve it or enhance it.”

Who gave the MILF the understanding that it was negotiating with the totality of the Philippine Government or ‘whole of government’ and that “the Commander-in-Chief power of the President allows him to bind the whole of government including its different branches”?

Who was the MILF negotiating with – our own GPH panel.

The GPH panel, which consistently pointed out from the very beginning, tied down the hands of Congress and everybody else by agreeing to the following provisions in the FAB and CAB.

Yes Congress has the power to enact laws specifically the Bangsamoro Basic Law. However, the FAB provides:

FAB Part II. Basic Law 2: The provisions of the Bangsamoro Basic Law shall be consistent with all agreements of the Parties.

FAB Part II. Transition and Implementation 12: At the end of the transition period, the GPH and MILF Peace Negotiating Panels, together with the Malaysian Facilitator and the Third Party Monitoring Team, shall convene a meeting to review, assess or evaluate the implementation of all agreements and the progress of the transition. An ‘Exit Document’ officially terminating the peace negotiation may be crafted and signed by both Parties if and only when all agreements have been fully implemented.

Annex on Normalization, Part C. Decommissioning 9.: The decommissioning of MILF forces shall be parallel and commensurate to the implementation of all agreements of the Parties.

Furthermore, in the CAB, the GPH panel agreed to the following provisions:

The CAB lists down 12 agreements including, among others, FAB, Annexes and Addendum, stating further:

“The parties commit to honor, respect, and implement all these past agreements and supplementary documents signed by them and as further elaborated in the Framework Agreement on the Bangsamoro and its Annexes.”

“The parties commit to faithfully abide, honor, respect, implement, and entrench these agreements, and nurture the integrity of the whole peace process.

An Exit Agreement shall be crafted and signed by both Parties when all agreements have been fully implemented.”

All of the above stated provisions found in the FAB and the CAB as agreed by our GPH Panel is the basis on which the dispositive portions of the BTC Resolution is anchored on.

The disposition part of BTC Resolution No. 005 Series of 2015:

NOW THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED AS IT IS HEREBY RESOLVED, that the BTC strongly expresses its support to the passage of the BBL in its original form (House Bill No. 4994), as the provisions of the same are consistent with the letter and spirit of the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro and the peace talks;

RESOLVE FURTHER, that the BTC stands firm that the proposed BBL in its original form is the most appropriate version based on the FAB & CAB and considering that it is the one that underwent the legitimate process of consultation with the people and engagement with the Office of the President;

RESOLVED, FINALLY, that the BTC implores the better judgment of the Leadership of both Houses of Congress to pass the BBL in its original form and to henceforth act according to the terms of the peace agreements.

APPROVED, this 29th of July 2015, during the regular session of the Bangsamoro Transition Commission, held at the BTC Office, Cotabato City.

Given all the foregoing, I state in plain and simple language that our GPH panel tied down the hands of Congress and violated all the four instructions given by the President himself to the GPH panel.

1. Be mindful of the Constitution, including its flexibilities

2. Learn from the lessons of the past (presumably to include ARMM 
experience and MOA-AD)

3. Do not put anything in the agreement that cannot be delivered 
economically, socially, and politically during the term of this 

4. Consult and be transparent

We are down to the last stretch, the end of the long and winding road, a few days left, in fact a few hours left, before we adjourn and if the Basic Law for the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region is not passed – Congress is not to be blamed – aside from the fact that our own GPH panel agreed to so many unconstitutional provisions and contentious and controversial provisions inimical to national interest and the sovereignty of the State which they should not have agreed to. There was an almost 5 months delay – April 22 – September 10, 2014 from the time the BTC submitted the draft to the Executive Branch and subsequent submission of the BBL to Congress. The deliberations of the BBL also suffered a big setback and delay of more than two months as this was overtaken by the Mamasapano Massacre. Deliberations on the BBL were suspended from February 9 to April 20, 2015.

And if we are to pass this basic law let us observe the legislative process and more important pass a law that can stand legal scrutiny – a law that is not contrary to the Constitution and existing law, a law that is not against the national interest, a law that is not against the interest of Mindanao and Zamboanga City, and a law that does not contain provisions inimical to the territorial integrity and sovereignty of the Republic and provisions leading to the creation of a sub-state that would lead to the dismemberment of the Republic.


The government therefore will invite all rebel groups to become advocates and partners in advancing the peace process for the greater good of the country and people. The peace process shall be pursued comprehensively. However, it will not come at any price nor at the cost of the sovereignty and territorial integrity of the Republic”.


(Zamboanga City Rep. delivered this privilege speech at the House of Representatives on 2 February 2016. Rep. Lobregat submitted his Turno En Contra on BBL/BLBAR to be included in the records.)