President Duterte holds the draft of the Bangsamoro Basic Law during a turnover ceremony at Malacanang on May 17.
File photo
Duterte to sign BBL before delivering SONA
Alexis Romero (The Philippine Star) - July 20, 2018 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines — President Duterte may sign the Bangsamoro organic law before he delivers his third State of the Nation Address (SONA) on Monday, Malacañang said yesterday. 

Presidential spokesman Harry Roque thanked the members of Congress for reconciling their versions of the bill, one of the priority measures of the Duterte administration. 

The bicameral conference committee approved the proposed Bangsamoro organic law on Wednesday night, a year after the Bangsamoro Transition Council submitted its draft to the President. 

“We thank our lawmakers and the members of the Bangsamoro Transition Council because the bicameral conference for the BBL or the Bangsamoro Basic Law is finished. The President can now sign the BBL before his SONA on Monday,” Roque said.

He could not say when exactly Duterte would sign the measure into law, but expressed belief that the President may do so on Monday. 

“As soon as we receive the consolidated version of the proposed Republic Act, the President can sign,” Roque said. “It’s possible that it will be on Monday...I think that’s the target anyway.”

Under the Constitution, the President has 30 days to sign a measure into law or veto it. If he does not act within 30 days, the bill will lapse into law.

The House of Representatives and the Senate have to ratify the bill separately before it can be transmitted to the President for his signature.

Roque said the ratification would be done when the two chambers meet on Monday morning to open the third regular session of the 17th Congress. 

He said Duterte may discuss the Bangsamoro organic law during his third SONA. 

Under the proposed law, a 75-25 wealth sharing term in favor of the Bangsamoro region will be implemented to increase the region’s share in government tax revenues. 

Lawmakers also adopted a provision on automatic allocation of the annual block grant for the region. The grant is equivalent to five percent of the net national internal revenue of the Bureau of Internal Revenue and Customs. 

The national government will allot P5 billion to the Bangsamoro annually for 10 years or P50 billion to rehabilitate areas affected by conflict.

The law also allows the Bangsamoro to implement Shari’ah or Islamic law exclusively to cases involving Muslims while adhering to the Constitution.

Tribal laws will apply to disputes involving indigenous peoples within the region. 

Duterte previously said failure to pass the BBL would worsen the conflict in Mindanao and provide terrorist groups opportunity to recruit members. 

Don’t judge yet

Senate President Vicente Sotto III advised critics of the BBL to give the measure at least two years to deliver on its promises before passing judgment on the measure.

 Sotto said the proposed BBL could be repealed by Congress if the same problems such as secession and hostilities arise during the first two years of implementation of the new organic act of Mindanao.

He said the BBL could serve as an experiment for federalism since the law contains elements similar to what is being proposed by the proponents of a federal form of government.

In the first two years of the BBL, Sotto said critics should monitor the use of the budget for the Bangsamoro region and how they are running their parliament there then come out with a list of problems.

If there is sufficient basis to claim that the law has not delivered on its promises, then he said Congress could be asked to work on the repeal of the BBL.

This early, Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon expressed apprehensions about the BBL being able to address the basic issue of good governance in Mindanao.

While Drilon is optimistic the law will succeed in bringing peace and stability in the region, he said the BBL’s lack of effective measures to address governance issues hounding the soon to be replaced Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) for decades, would not be able to address the longstanding problem of poverty.

He said the removal of the anti-dynasty provision, similar to the one found in the Sangguniang Kabataan Reform Law, could put to naught other measures that Congress has put in place to promote good governance in the Bangsamoro region. 

Among them are the provisions that promote accountability by maintaining the Commission on Audit as the exclusive auditor and tighten the qualification of Sharia’h court justices. 

The Bangsamoro government is also given the power to create government corporations but they should comply with the provisions of the GOCC Governance Act. It may also enact its own civil service rules that should be compliant with existing rules.

Sen. Sonny Angara is confident that what was approved by Congress during the bicameral conference committee meetings on the BBL will stand the test of constitutionality.

Sen. Francis Escudero said the BBL is not a perfect document, and achieving and fighting for peace is a continuing process. 

Best time

With the historic approval of the Bangsamoro Organic Law, congressmen said now is the best time to break the decades-old secessionist movement of Muslims in war-torn Mindanao.

 “All of us took an oath to support and defend the 1987 Constitution of the Philippines. We have to abide by it,” House Majority Leader Rodolfo Fariñas, who made sure the proposed Bangsamoro Basic Law was “constitutionally compliant,” said yesterday. 

 He informed Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez that the House contingent to the bicameral conference committee he headed “successfully accomplished the mandate” they were given, and will turn over the bicam report to him on Monday. 

“Thank you for your trust and confidence,” the Ilocos Norte congressman said. “Finally, I wish to commend and thank the members of our contingent for the six days of at least 13-hour daily work that they contributed.” 

“At least, things regarding BOL are coming into fruition,” he added. 

Fariñas said the peace bill would be ratified during the morning session of Congress on July 23 and allow Duterte to sign it into law hours before his third SONA at 4 p.m. of the same day. 

Reps. Amihilda Sangcopan of party-list Anak Mindanao, Winston Castelo of Quezon City and House Deputy Speaker Raneo Abu welcomed the approval of the measure that would hopefully bring total peace and development in the region.  

“Moros will have something better than the status quo that is the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao,” Sangcopan said, since the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM) will be replacing the former five-province ARMM. 

BARMM new government setup

The Bangsamoro Organic Law would create the BARMM and will be headed by a chief minister and a ceremonial leader called a wali.

In its structural government, the BARMM will have a Parliament of 80 members composed of 50 percent party representatives, 40 percent district representatives and 10 percent sectoral representatives.

This also includes a provision guaranteeing two reserved seats for “non-Moro indigenous peoples and settler communities.”

The region includes current ARMM provinces such as Tawi-Tawi, Sulu, Basilan, Maguindanao and Lanao del Sur while waiting for a regional plebiscite. 

The regional plebiscite will include six municipalities of Lanao del Norte and 39 barangays of North Cotabato for inclusion provided a favorable majority vote. 

The chartered cities of Cotabato and Isabela are also subject of the plebiscite for inclusion in the proposed region. – With Marvin Sy, Delon Porcalla

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