House ratifies Bangsamoro Organic Law

Jess Diaz - The Philippine Star
House ratifies Bangsamoro Organic Law
Lawmakers congratulate each other following the ratification of Bangsamoro Organic Law at the House of Representatives yesterday.
Michael Varcas

MANILA, Philippines — The House of Representatives yesterday approved the proposed Bangsamoro Organic Law (BOL), which the administration and its authors said is the key to promoting lasting peace in Mindanao.

The BOL will create a new Muslim regional entity and replace the current Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM). It is the first piece of legislation passed by the House under newly elected Speaker Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo.

Ironically, among the authors of the bill containing the BOL are the man Arroyo replaced, Davao del Norte Rep. Pantaleon Alvarez, and former majority leader and Ilocos Norte Rep. Rodolfo Fariñas. Arroyo is a co-author of the measure.

The House approved the bill with Camarines Sur Rep. Rolando Andaya Jr., a deputy speaker, presiding over the session and another deputy speaker, Capiz Rep. Fredenil Castro, serving as acting majority leader.

“As I intend to carry out the legislative agenda of President (Duterte), we will ratify the (BOL) today,” Arroyo said in a statement before the start of the session. 

“Aside from that, I would like to add that I feel it is also the Speaker’s job to make sure that congressmen are able to give the immediate need of their constituents, especially now that we have a lot of calamities affecting the country. We have identified nine districts (in the provinces of Rizal, Zambales, Bataan, Ifugao and Pangasinan) that need a lot of help. So what we are trying to do is to help the nine congressmen give help to their constituents,” she said.

The expected approval of the BOL bill last Monday before President Duterte’s third State of the Nation Address was derailed by the Arroyo-Alvarez leadership fight.

The former speaker has apparently accepted his fate. During yesterday’s session, no one from his camp questioned Arroyo’s election as new House leader.

A Senate-House conference committee worked on the final draft of the BOL day and night between July 9 and 18, expunging what were considered as constitutionally questionable provisions.

Fariñas and his Senate counterpart Juan Miguel Zubiri jointly chaired the panel.

Representatives of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front, which headed a group that wrote the Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL), sat through the conference and accepted the committee’s version.

On at least two sticky issues related to the definition of the territory of the proposed Bangsamoro region, the committee members had to seek Duterte’s intervention.

In one meeting, Duterte convinced the committee to adopt the pertinent provisions of the House version, which are consistent with a 2014 ruling of the Supreme Court (SC).

In the case, the SC ordered the Commission on Elections (Comelec) to conduct a plebis-cite in the entire province of Nueva Ecija, not just Cabanatuan City, on Cabanatuan’s conversion as a highly urbanized city.

In the draft BBL, aside from the five provinces now covered by ARMM, the envisioned Bangsamoro region would be expanded to include six towns in Lanao del Norte and 39 barangays in North Cotabato.

The House version called for conduct of a plebiscite in the entire province of Lanao del Norte and in the towns where the 39 barangays are located. The Senate version was silent on this.

Comelec is expected to schedule the plebiscite soon after Duterte signs the BOL bill into law.

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