At last, draft BBL transmitted to Senate, but no certificate of urgency

DAVAO CITY (MindaNews / 17 August) — The draft Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) that the Bangsamoro Transition Commission (BTC) submitted to President Rodrigo Duterte on July 17 is finally in Congress, but no certificate of urgency accompanied its transmittal.

Instead, Undersecretary Ryan Estevez of the Presidential Legislative Liaison Office (PLLO) under the Office of the President said in his August 14 letter to Senate President Aquilino Pimentel III that they trust in the “collective wisdom of Congress should they deem proper to refine the draft further in the course of the regular legislative mill in order to reflect the genuine aspirations of the Filipino people.”

Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process Jesus Dureza sent MindaNews on Thursday afternoon (Aug. 17), a copy of the transmittal letter stamped received by Pimentel’s office at 7 p.m. on August 14.

“Per Deputy Executive Secretary Menard Guevarra, when all pending bills are consolidated into one bill, then certificate of urgency will be issued,” Dureza told MindaNews.

No copy of the transmittal letter stamped received by House Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez, Jr., has been made available. The transmittal letter to Pimentel showed the letter was cc’d to Alvarez.

But Alvarez on ANC’s Headstart on Wednesday morning (August 16) said the House has not received a copy of what he described as a “revised draft.”

“Wala pa sa amin, di ko pa nababasa” (It’s not with us. I have not read it), Alvarez said, adding there may have been unofficial copies around but “wala po kaming official.”

Curiously, the first paragraph of the transmittal letter said “further to the turnover made by the Bangsamoro Transition Commission (BTC) to Congress on 17 July 2017, we respectfully submit herewith a copy” of the draft BBL.

The BTC submitted the draft BBL to President Duterte exactly a month ago today in turnover rites held in Malacanang, witnessed by Pimentel and Alvarez.

The 2014 Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro, signed by the government (GPH) and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) on March 27, 2014 provides for the creation of the Bangsamoro, a new autonomous political entity that would replace the 27-year old Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao.

The purpose of the law is to “establish a political entity, provide for its basic structure of government in recognition of the justness and legitimacy of the cause of the Bangsamoro people and their aspiration to chart their political future through a democratic process that will secure their identity and posterity and allow for meaningful self-governance.”

The draft BBL was crafted by a 21-member Commission, 11 nominated by the MILF and 10 by the government. Lumads (Indigenous Peoples) in the proposed Bangsamoro core territory are represented in the Commission along with three representatives from the Moro National Liberation Front under Yusoph Jikiri and Muslimin Sema.

BTC chair Ghazali Jaafar declined to comment on the new developments.  “No comment muna ako,” he told MindaNews Thursday afternoon. Asked if their draft BBL was revised by the Palace as Alvarez mentioned “revised draft,” Jaafar said, “hindi ko alam” (I do not know).

While the transmittal of the draft BBL from the Office of President to Congress took a month, former President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo filed House Bill 6121 or the Basic Act for the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region (BABAR) on August 3.

The BABAR, however, 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.

Congress under the Aquino administration adjourned without passing the Bangsamoro law. (Carolyn O. Arguillas / MindaNews)