Drilon: No Cha-cha for Bangsamoro Law
Christina Mendez (The Philippine Star) - February 7, 2014 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines - The Bangsamoro Basic Law being crafted under the peace framework between the government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) will not lead to an amendment of the Constitution, Senate President Franklin Drilon said yesterday.

Drilon made the statement as members of the Transition Commission, tasked with drafting the proposed Bangsamoro Basic Law, met with congressional leaders.

“We emphasize to the Transition Commission that the basic law should be within the four corners of the Constitution,” Drilon said after the meeting with members of the commission at the Senate.

Drilon made the assurance as Congress leaders geared up for the scrutiny and subsequent approval of the landmark agreement before President Aquino ends his term in 2016.

“That is the commitment of the President to the people, that there will be no constitutional amendments necessary as a result of the basic law because that is precisely why… the peace agreement did not need approval of the Supreme Court,” Drilon added.

Drilon gave the assurance with Presidential Adviser for the Peace Process Secretary Teresita Deles, Bangsamoro Transition Commission (BTC) led by MILF chief peace negotiator Mohagher Iqbal and Sen. Teofisto Guingona III, chairman of the Senate committee on peace, unification and reconciliation.

The BTC paid a courtesy call on Senate leaders yesterday.

“We are not saying that the Bangsamoro people cannot advocate for Charter change. What we’re just saying is that the basic law is not the avenue through which amendments can be done,” Drilon said.

Drilon stressed the crafting of the Bangsamoro Basic Law will be within constitutional parameters, a stand shared by the House of Representatives.

Drilon, along with Senate president pro-tempore Ralph Recto, majority leader Alan Peter Cayetano, minority leader Juan Ponce Enrile and Sen. Vicente Sotto III met yesterday morning with Speaker Feliciano Belmonte Jr., House majority leader Neptali Gonzales and minority leader Ronaldo Zamora.

It was during the meeting that the Congress leaders agreed that enactment of the Bangsamoro Basic Law should be made by yearend, Drilon said.

“That is our target because we want to see 2015 as the year when we can submit this for ratification by areas covered by the Bangsamoro Basic Law. This is our commitment on the part of the Senate,” he said.

They agreed on the timetable – that the commission would submit the draft by March 31 and Congress would be waiting for the administration’s version by May.

Belmonte on Wednesday said he got a call from Malacañang informing him that President Aquino is intending to call for a meeting of the Legislative-Executive Advisory Development Council soon.

Drilon and Belmonte said the complete details of the proposed law were not discussed during the meeting since the document is still being drafted by the commission.

The enactment of the law is one of the final steps in the peace process between the government and the MILF to end the decades-old insurgency in Mindanao.

Once enacted, the basic law will be subjected to a plebiscite in covered areas in Mindanao, including provinces in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM).

“We discussed the Bangsamoro Law from various angles, and we’re assured that there’s no Charter change involved,” Belmonte said.


Iqbal, for his part, welcomed the commitment of the lawmakers, saying the commission is fully committed to craft the Bangsamoro Basic Law by March 31.

“While we are committed to the President, the Senate President, the Speaker of the House and all the leaders, we will do our part to making sure that the basic law will be finally passed,” Iqbal said.

“We are not leaving any stone unturned in our ways for reaching the people in all sectors of society so that they will understand what the basic law is all about. At the end of the day, when people are well informed of the process about the basic law, what are the contents of the basic law, and we are working on this,” he said.

Iqbal added that the BTC has tapped international and local experts regarding the technical details in crafting the law.

“Although we know that it’s not an easy job, especially for people not used to crafting a law like us, but we have the determination,” Iqbal said.

Deles stressed the proposed Bangsamoro Basic Law would not require any amendment to the Constitution.

Recto, for his part, urged the commission to submit its draft earlier than May as previously scheduled.

“We know we have to pass the basic law but it doesn’t mean it’s going to be that version right away, depending on what comes out, both Houses will take a look at it,” he said.

Cayetano added Congress would not guarantee that “all annexes and parameters will be passed.”

“We’ll pass it as long as there’s nothing unconstitutional, and it’s a fair deal for all Filipinos,” he said.

What if?

House leaders have repeatedly expressed their preference that the proposed basic law should not require any amendment to the Constitution to avoid legal complications, including questions before the Supreme Court that would derail the peace process.

But local officials in Mindanao are complaining that they are more confused over the Framework Agreement with the MILF, particularly on the provision on territory.

“We want to be clarified on this issue on territory. How do you define contiguous? We are confused and we do not know what to tell our constituents,” North Cotabato 1st district boardmember Loreto Cabaya Jr. asked members of the government peace panel during the consultation Wednesday in Kidapawan, North Cotabato.

Government chief negotiator Miriam Coronel-Ferrer, former agriculture secretary Senen Bacani and Bai Yasmin Busran-Lao conducted the first of the consultations with local officials in Mindanao after the fourth annex on normalization with the MILF was signed last month.

Cabaya’s town, Aleosan, has been identified as one of six municipalities of North Cotabato that would be included in the core territory of the Bangsamoro, along with the towns of Kabacan, Carmen, Pigkawayan, Pikit and Midsayap, that voted for inclusion in the ARMM in the 2001 plebiscite.

A combined total of 39 barangays in the six municipalities of North Cotabato has been proposed to be included in the core territory of the Bangsamoro.

But Cabaya and other local officials questioned the provision on territory, asking “what if only one barangay in a town votes for inclusion in the core territory of the Bangsamoro and the rest will opt not to be included?”

“How do you resolve that issue on ‘contiguous’ areas with one barangay being included in the core territory and the rest of a town would not be included? How will it affect the delivery of basic government services? And could that barangay ask for help from the municipal government when it is already a part of the Bangsamoro territory and no longer with that town?” Cabaya stressed.

The local officials also asked the government panel to explain how the Bangsamoro Basic Law would address the issue on territory on the provision that “all other contiguous areas where there is a resolution of the local government unit or a petition of at least 10 percent of the qualified voters in the area asking for inclusion at least two months before the conduct of the ratification of the Bangsamoro Basic Law.”

North Cotabato Gov. Emmylou Taliño-Mendoza said they would consolidate their concerns and recommendations to the government peace panel and before Congress.

Ferrer and Bacani, on the other hand, explained the issues on territory the local officials in North Cotabato raised would further be discussed by Congress as they craft the basic law.


The government peace panel also allayed apprehensions on possible marginalization of indigenous tribes under the Bangsamoro entity.

Ferrer said the government and MILF peace panels acknowledged the plurality of the communities in the proposed Bangsamoro territory.

Ferrer said the government and MILF panels also acknowledge the cultural, religious and traditional identities of the communities in the proposed Bangsamoro domain. – Paolo Romero, Edith Regalado, John Unson, Jose Rodel Clapano, Sheila Crisostomo



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