TO THE POINT: BBL Passage Assured, But …

GENERAL SANTOS CITY, May 29, 2018 – The passage of the Bangsamoro Basic Law tomorrow, Wednesday May 30, is assured. What will be left crucially hanging is: How compliant will it be with the Comprehensive Agreement on Bangsamoro (CAB) so as to be acceptable to the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) and the Moro people?

With President R. Rodrigo Duterte certifying today or tomorrow SB No. 1717 and SB No. 6475 as urgent, the House and the Senate will pass them into law on second and third reading tomorrow; the bicameral conference committee will reconcile the two versions during the congressional break. The reconciled version will be separately approved by both Houses in the morning of July 23 for the President to sign into law before delivering his Third State of the Nation address in the afternoon.

This is according to the May 29, 2018 GMA News report “Duterte expected to sign BBL into law on SONA day, Fariñas says”.    

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To ensure the passage of the law, the President met last Monday night the House and Senate leaders and the Bangsamoro Transition Committee. It was at this meeting that Duterte granted the earlier request of both Houses to certify the bills as urgent, GMA News also reported.

As reported in the national media, immediately preceding the President’s meeting with the congressional leaders and the BTC, the BBL was under intense interpellation with only three days left – May 28, 29 and 30 – to introduce crucial amendments, not just a few but many, and to approve the BBL on final reading.

Should all these amendments be accepted, SB 1717 which had MILF Chair Al Hadj Murad Ibrahim had deemed “acceptable” and HB 6425, the BTC BBL 2018 copy submitted by the President to the House, will drastically change. How the Monday night intervention of the President would shape the final Bangsamoro Basic Law will be known only by the copy he will sign on July 23.

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When SB1717 and HB 6425 were approved by the Senate and House committees, respectively, there was optimism that a CAB-compliant BBL would be finally passed.  But these dimmed somewhat during the period of interpellation, in the last two weeks.

The Philippine Star (May 27, 2018: BBL to get major facelift) said the final version of the BBL “could be very different from what was proposed by Malacañang and the Bangsamoro Transition Commission.  Sen. Ralph Recto and Sen. Frank Drilon each have, more or less, 150 proposed amendments.

As similarly reported by GMA News (May 26:  Recto seeks BBL provisions requiring a nationl govt ‘contribution’) and Philippine Daily Inquirer (May 28: BBL faces more hurdles in the Senate), among those being questioned are:

  • the P150 billion annual budget of Bangsamoro;
  • the name “Bangsamoro” that connotes the establishment of a separate state;
  • the shared and exclusive powers between Bangsamoro and the Central Govcernment;
  • the parliamentary system of the Bangsamoro government.

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The President and the Congress have avowed a countless times that the BBL is the final piece of the peace process between the government and the Moro Islamic Liberation that will achieve lasting peace in Mindanao. In repeating this, the Duterte administration and the leaders of the 17th Congress are only echoing what past administrations have said since the last years of President Fidel V. Ramos 20 years ago.

President Duterte is only implementing the Government-MILF Peace Agreement that President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo started pursuing in earnest and finally wrapped up in the CAB under President Benigno Simeon C. Aquino III. It is deplorably unfortunate that the dominant majority in the Congress cannot rise from their narrow minds and shed off their anti-Moro biases and prejudices. With these, they, in the 16th Congress, scuttled BBL in the name of constitutionality, et cetera.

We see in the 17th Congress the same narrow-mindedness, biases and prejudices dominating and undoing the Government-MILF (Moro) peace agreement. The dominant majority will pass the BBL they want. Passage is not the issue but this: Will this BBL President Duterte will sign on July 23, 2018  be CAB-compliant and acceptable to the MILF and the Moros?

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