A day after President Duterte certified the BBL as urgent, congressmen voted 227 to 11, with two abstentions, to pass the BBL, seen as key to forging lasting peace with separatist rebels and thwarting the rise of Islamist extremism in the nation’s poorest and most dangerous region.
Ernie Penaredondo, File
House passes Bangsamoro Basic Law, 227-11
Delon Porcalla (The Philippine Star) - May 31, 2018 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines — The Philippines moved a step closer yesterday to ending decades of conflict in Mindanao after the House of Representatives approved the Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL), with the Senate expected to do the same late last night.

A day after President Duterte certified the BBL as urgent, congressmen voted 227 to 11, with two abstentions, to pass the BBL, seen as key to forging lasting peace with separatist rebels and thwarting the rise of Islamist extremism in the nation’s poorest and most dangerous region.

Both chambers will still have to reconcile their versions of the BBL, with the contentious issues centering on constitutional questions.

The bill is the result of a 2014 peace deal between the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) and the government to end nearly 50 years of conflict that has killed more than 120,000 people and displaced twomillion.

It outlines the process to set up a self-administered territory in an area sometimes referred to as Bangsamoro, encompassing mountains, islands and jungles that is home to at least four million people, mostly Muslim.

President Duterte has stressed the importance of getting the legislation passed and certified it as an urgent bill on Tuesday to get it approved before a house recess on June 2.

The previous administration met numerous hurdles and failed to pass the bill, fuelling resentment and mistrust among many minority Muslims.

Duterte has warned that another failure could be disastrous and play into the hands of extremist groups like Islamic State, which inspired a militant alliance to seize Marawi City last year for five months.

Once signed into law, Bangsamoro will have its own executive, legislature and fiscal powers, but the central government will continue to oversee defense, security, foreign affairs, and monetary policy.

Senators rushed to write their respective amendments to the BBL to have the landmark measure passed.

Among the contentious provisions were on territorial boundaries of the proposed Bangsamoro autonomous region, annual block grants and police and security powers.

Under the bill, the proposed Bangsamoro autonomous region will receive P72 billion yearly in block grants automatically appropriated in the annual national budget to be sourced from government revenues.

The new autonomous region will also be extended a Special Development Fund of P100 billion for 20 years, P10 billion of which shall be given by the national government the year following the ratification of the BBL. 

Thereafter, P8 billion will be released annually for the next four years, and P6 billion annually from year six to 10.

The balance will be released in 10 equal annual installments of P2.8 billion.

Among those who put in amendments were Senate President Pro Tempore Ralph Recto, Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon and Sens. Grace Poe, Cynthia Villar, Francis Escudero, Richard Gordon, Gregorio Honasan, Panfilo Lacson and Joel Villanueva.

Lacson strengthened provisions in the BBL where the Bangsamoro police will be under the PNP in keeping with the constitutional precept that there shall be one police force.

Drilon introduced amendments to make sure the BBL will not suffer the same fate as the Memorandum of Agreement on Ancestral Domain (MOA-AD), which the Supreme Court declared unconstitutional.

He also moved for the inclusion of the provision reiterating “that the Bangsamoro people are citizens of the Republic of the Philippines.”

The Senate also carried the minority leader’s amendment to remove the province of Palawan from the list of areas considered as historically part of Bangsamoro territory.  - Paolo Romero

BANGSAMORO BASIC LAW MORO ISLAMIC LIBERATION FRONT
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