NPC members free to take stand on Bangsamoro bill

The Philippine Star

MANILA, Philippines - The Nationalist People’s Coalition (NPC) is not taking a party stand on the Bangsamoro Bill.

NPC spokesman Mark Enverga’s assessment is that many members of the coalition are against the bill seeking to create a new autonomous Bangsamoro region in Muslim Mindanao.

“Each party member is free to support it or oppose it,”  he said. 

The vote on the bill could go either way, “depending on the final language of the measure, particularly the opt-in provision,” the Quezon lawmaker told a news forum in Quezon City yesterday.

“If that provision is kept, many congressmen, including those from Mindanao, will vote against the BBL,” he said.

The provision allows the envisioned Bangsamoro regional government to expand through a petition of 10 percent of the voters or the town councils of the neighboring areas.

The Commission on Elections would have to hold a plebiscite for the approval of the adjoining areas’ inclusion in the region.

Mindanao lawmakers fear that they would lose their districts to the Bangsamoro government through threats, harassment and intimidation, since the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), which would dominate the region, would remain armed.

Before adjourning its last session for the year on Dec. 16, the House of Representatives terminated floor debates on the Bangsamoro Bill.

During the closing interpellations, Cagayan de Oro City Rep. Rufus Rodriguez said House leaders have agreed to scrap the opt-in provision, apparently to lessen opposition to the bill.

“Its deletion will be the first amendment I will introduce when the period for amendments comes,” he told his colleagues.

The House was originally scheduled to pass the Bangsamoro Bill before the Christmas break but could not do it for lack of time.

It postponed approval for the third week of next month, when Congress reconvenes.

Lawmakers would hold sessions for only nine days before adjourning on Feb. 6 for the election campaign of almost four months.

Rodriguez said he remains hopeful that the House could approve the bill when session resumes after the month-long Christmas recess.

“We have to do it for the sake of peace,” he said.

‘Delays to benefit terrorists’ 

The MILF has warned that delays in the passage of the Bangsamoro Bill would benefit terrorists and extremists.

In an editorial posted on its website luwaran.com, the MILF said efforts to derail the bill would be counterproductive and would only cause more problems for the country.

“We do not see any wisdom of delaying the passage of the Bangsamoro Basic Law in Congress,” read the editorial.

“Any delay is counter-productive – it only feeds on the appetite of so-called radicals and terrorists.” 

Lawmakers opposing the Bangsamoro Bill should conduct a “soul-searching exercise,” read the editorial.

“Those lawmakers who are spoiling or filibustering the passage of the BBL, in the guise of securing Constitution-compliant law, should be talked to and urged to conduct soul-searching exercise,” read the editorial.

“Good if that is really their motives. If otherwise, then they are not really doing any service to this country.  On the contrary, they are courting problems for this country. 

“If the proposed law is not enacted into law, the spoilers are not the only ones to be faulted. Much in the loop is leadership.”

The Bangsamoro Bill aims to implement the 2014 peace agreement between the government and the MILF.

It also seeks to create a Bangsamoro parliamentary government, a Bangsamoro auditing body, civil service commission, electoral office, police, human rights commission and regional police board.

The national government would provide the envisioned Bangsamoro government an annual block grant (ABG) or regular appropriations and a Special Development Fund for rehabilitation projects during its first years.

When the Bangsamoro government increases its revenue collection such that it is equivalent to or more than the ABG, it would no longer receive any funding from the national government.

The Bangsamoro government would also be allowed to tap other revenue sources like loans, overseas development assistance, commercial debt market, grants and donations and share in government revenues derived from exploration, development and use of natural resources.



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