Palace: No separate Bangsamoro police, military

Audrey Morallo - Philstar.com
Palace: No separate Bangsamoro police, military
President Duterte holds the draft of the Bangsamoro Basic Law during a turnover ceremony at the Palace on July 17.
File photo

The Bangsamoro Basic Law doesn't propose separate security forces

MANILA, Philippines — President Rodrigo Duterte will not allow the creation of separate Bangsamoro police force and armed forces for the proposed Bangsamoro region, presidential spokesperson Harry Roque said on Thursday.
The version of the Bangsamoro Basic Law drafted by a Palace-created Bangsamoro Transition Commission and later reviewed and endorsed to Congress by the Office of the President does not propose these.

The draft BBL, which may have seen substantial changes during the legislative process, only tasks the central government to create a Bangsamoro Military Command, which will be part of the Armed Forces of the Philippines and which "shall be organized, maintained, and utilized in accordance with national laws."
The BBL also creates a Bangsamoro Police to maintain peace and order in the region. The draft clearly states that "it shall be part of the Philippine National Police."
The Bangsamoro Police, however, will be governed by a Bangsamoro Police Board, "which shall perform the functions of the National Police Commission in the Bangsamoro Government." That board will be part of the National Police Commission. 
The Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process clarified in March that it is a misconception that the new region will have its own separate security forces and that while the military and police organizations will have different names, they will function like a regional police office or military command.

Speaking during a press briefing in the Palace, Roque said that the president identified this issue, which was being pushed by the Bangsamoro Transitional Council, as his “bare minimum” that he could not countenance.

Contentious issues

Roque said that the president had already spoken to different sectors and convinced them to reach a compromise if they would like the proposed Bangsamoro Basic Law to be passed and “withstand the test of judicial scrutiny.”

“What I know was one of the contentious issues the president decided was there could not be a separate Bangsamoro police and a separate Bangsamoro armed forces," Roque said in Filipino.

The Palace spokesman said the BTC had pushed for that but had been convinced by the president "that it was not possible because that was his bare minimum." The draft BBL submitted to the 16th Congress during the Aquino administration did not propose separate security forces either.

On Wednesday, House Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez himself admitted that the law’s constitutionality might be questioned before the High Court since the measure would abolish the Autonomous Region for Muslim Mindanao established under the charter.

“As a lawyer, I share that doubt as the ARMM is indeed specified in the constitution. Let the Supreme Court decide on this matter,” Alvarez said.

Aside from the supposedly separate police force and armed forces, another contentious issue is the holding of plebiscite as the BTC would like to conduct five referendums over the next 25 years which would allow areas not originally part of the autonomous region to join it.

Some lawmakers meanwhile would like to hold only one plebiscite amid fears that such an opt-in provision could result in a substantial expansion of the Bangsamoro region. Despite being long-time residents of Mindanao, Moros are a minority there due to waves of settlers from other regions.

On Wednesday, the House of Representatives, voting 227-11, approved on third and final reading the version of the BBL in the chamber. The Senate on the other hand approved its version in the wee hours of Thursday morning.
These approvals came just after Duterte certified the versions "urgent" which would allow them to hasten their deliberations.

The two chambers will have to reconcile the differences in the versions during the bicameral conference committee, the last opportunity to ensure that the final version is legal and constitutional, according to Roque.

“We’re hoping that congressmen will exert all efforts to make sure that this BBL will withstand judicial scrutiny, having learned the lesson from the previous MOA-AD,” Roque said, referring to the previous agreement between the government and Moro Islamic Liberation Front, the country’s largest Muslim group, that was struck down by the Supreme Court in 2008 due to questions over its legality.

Roque said that the president did not see any need for him to call a special session of Congress as lawmakers could resolve the differences between their versions during the break.

If passed into law, the BBL will put Manila a step closer to attaining peace in parts of Mindanao that have been affected by decades-long conflict.






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