July 22, 2018, 11:33 pm
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BBL sub-panels formed to discuss sticky issues

BY WENDELL VIGILIA AND JP LOPEZ 

THE bicameral conference committee discussing the proposed Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) yesterday grouped themselves into sub-committees to tackle controversial issues in a bid to fast-track the reconciliation of the different versions of the measure. 

Congressmen and senators convened yesterday for the second time this week to reconcile the conflicting provisions of their versions of the proposed BBL, which seeks to replace the Autonomous Region on Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) with a new Bangsamoro autonomous region.

Senate Majority Leader Juan Miguel Zubiri, head of the Senate contingent in the bicameral panel, said the mother will wait for the sub-committees to finish their discussions before they resume their meeting. 

Six sub-committees were formed to tackle the provisions on powers of government (Article V); taxes and fiscal matters (Article XII); public order and national security (Article XI); justice system - Shari’ah (Article X); territory and plebiscite (Article III and Article XV); and, composition of parliament (Article VII).

Zubiri said of the six areas of concerns, the sub-committees have already finalized the provisions on taxes and fiscal matters; public order and national security; and the composition of the parliament. 

Fariñas said section 1 of Article III, which provides the definition of the region’s geographical jurisdiction, was approved subject to style.

Zubiri said there was a deadlock on the discussions of the sub-committee tackling the Shariah justice system as member lawmakers were still debating the issue on the powers to be granted to the Bangsamoro government. 

The group decided to defer the matter of territorial jurisdiction and plebiscite and discuss it again at a later time. 

On the holding of a plebiscite for the inclusion of 39 barangays in North Cotabato and six municipalities in Lanao del Norte, Zubiri said district representatives protested the holding of a plebiscite in six municipalities by the mother province.

The House version wants the majority vote of the province but members of the Bangsamoro Transition Commission say they have no chance of getting the majority votes of the entire province. During the previous plebiscite, they said they already won in the municipal level but since it should be the mother province which should decide, they lost.

“In the Senate version, that is not necessary. It is just the majority vote of the municipalities,” Zubiri said. 

Zubiri said they are working on a win-win solution to settle the issue. 

The subcommittees shall be composed of House majority leader Rodolfo Fariñas and Zubiri, as well as Reps. Khalid Dimaporo (PDP-Laban, Lanao del Norte); his father, Abdullah Dimaporo (PDP-Laban, Lanao del Norte); and Celso Lobregat (LDP, Zamboanga City); and Sen. Sonny Angara.

A group composed of Reps. Arthur Defensor, Jr. (PDP-Laban, Iloilo); Khalid Dimaporo, and Amihilda Sangcopan (PL, Anak Mindanao) and Sen. Aquilino Pimentel III shall work on Article V, which outlines the powers granted to the Bangsamoro government.

Another small group was established to tackle sections 5 to 10 of Article VII, which covers the Bangsamoro government.

Another small group will cover the Bangsamoro Parliament, particularly its composition; classification and allocation of seats; election of reserved seats for non-Moro indigenous peoples; election of representatives of the settlers, women, youth, and traditional leaders; regional parties; and redistricting. The group is composed of Reps. Defensor and Sangcopan with Sens. Francis Escudero, Pimentel, and Risa Hontiveros.

Article X, which provides for the justice system and Shari’ah courts in the Bangsamoro government, shall be fine-tuned by a subcommittee composed of Representatives Eugene De Vera (PL, ABS); Mauyag Papandayan Jr. (PDP-Laban, Lanao del Sur); and Rodante Marcoleta (PL, 1-Sagipa) with Senator Drilon. 

Another group composed of Reps. Wilter Wee Palma II (PDP-Laban, Zamboanga Sibugay) and Juan Pablo Bondoc (PDP-Laban, Pampanga) and Sens. Angara and Hontiveros was tasked to work on the provisions of Article XII on taxation and other fiscal matters.

Article XI, which covers public order, national defense and security, and coastguard matters, shall be discussed by Reps. Romeo Acop (PDP-Laban, Antipolo) and Leopoldo Bataoil (NP, Pangasinan) with Zubiri. The group is tasked to tackle the proposed creation of the Bangsamoro Regional Police (BRP) vis-à-vis the mandate of the PNP.

Fariñas warned members of the bicameral panel the provision on “self-determination” might lead to its secession from the federal government.

Fariñas cited the experience of some European states, among them Kosovo which declared its independence from Serbia in 2008, where provisions specifying the quest for “self-determination” served as a jump-off point to secession and statehood.

However, Fariñas’ warning got lost in the discussions as other members of the bicameral conference committee moved to retain the phrase on the ground that it was aligned with the concept of autonomy, which is the essence of the proposed law.

During yesterday’s meeting, an omnibus amendment was agreed among bicameral members to qualify the BBL as an organic law of the Bangsamoro in the ARMM.

The BBL will be the enabling law for the 2014 Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro (CAB) between the Philippine government and rebel group Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF).

Zubiri said the bicameral committee would review the deletion of a provision against political dynasties. 

Fariñas said senators agreed to drop the anti-dynasty provision from its version of the BBL after congressmen pointed out that it violates the equal protection clause of the Constitution.
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