Give Bangsamoro Law a chance, Duterte urges public
President Duterte presents to MILF chairman Murad Ebrahim the signed Organic Law for the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao during a ceremony at Malacañang yesterday. Joining them are Senate President Vicente Sotto III and Speaker Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo.
Krizjohn Rosales

Give Bangsamoro Law a chance, Duterte urges public

Alexis Romero (The Philippine Star) - August 7, 2018 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines — President Duterte yesterday urged the public to give the Bangsamoro Organic Law (BOL) a chance to address the issues affecting Muslim Mindanao and continue the healing process.

Duterte expressed hope that the measure, which he signed into law last July 26, would finally end the decades-old conflict rooted in the Bangsamoro’s fight for self-determination and the recognition of their unique identity.

“Let us give this law a chance to address the Bangsamoro people’s aspiration for genuine autonomy, while preserving our bond as a single nation and affirming the sovereignty of the indivisible Republic of the Philippines,” the President said at the presentation of the BOL at Malacañang.

“Let us work together as we continue the healing and reconciliation process,” he added.

The BOL is a product of a series of peace negotiations between the government and Moro groups. It is largely based on the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro, the peace deal between the government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF).

The law will create a new Bangsamoro region with enhanced autonomy. The region will have a parliamentary form of government composed of 80 members representing different parties, sectors and districts elected by the people.

It also provides for a regional party system where parties must first be duly accredited by the Bangsamoro Election Office. The members of the parliament will then choose the chief minister and two deputy chief ministers, nominated by the chief minister.

The chief minister will appoint members of his Cabinet, a majority of whom will come from the members of parliament.

The parliament will also have the power to pass an annual budget for the region.

The BOL will also grant the new region the right to manage its funds, income and resources. The national government will provide an annual block grant to the Bangsamoro government – drawn from the annual national budget – to enable it to efficiently perform its powers and functions.

Taxes collected from the Bangsamoro region will be divided 75 percent-25 percent in favor of the Bangsamoro government. Proponents of the law said the setup would allow the Bangsamoro to catch up with other regions in terms of economic development.

Duterte urged the Bangsamoros, indigenous communities and Christian settlers living in Bangsamoro areas to actively participate in constructive discussions about the law.

“But more importantly, I encourage you to take part in the upcoming plebiscite so that you may express your sovereign will through the ballot,” he added.

A plebiscite is needed to implement the BOL. The law should secure a majority vote from areas included in the region.

MILF peace panel chairman Mohagher Iqbal said the decommissioning of his group’s combatants and weapons would take place after the BOL is ratified in the plebiscite.

“Immediately after the ratification... the second phase of decommissioning 30 percent of our combatants will take place,” Iqbal told reporters at Malacañang. The plebiscite is expected to be held between November and January next year.

Duterte thanked former Senate president Aquilino Pimentel III and former House speaker Pantaleon Alvarez for supporting the BOL and other priority bills of his administration. He said the passage of the laws “speak well of their able leadership and firm resolve to rise above divisive partisan politics.”

“Let me also express my gratitude to the members of the Bangsamoro Transition Commission, the Moro Islamic Liberation Front and the Moro National Liberation Front for their unwavering commitment, determination and perseverance in pursuing the passage of the Bangsamoro Organic Law. May this serve as the final trajectory for the attainment of genuine peace, stability and good governance in Muslim Mindanao,” he said.

“Together, let us shatter the dark clouds that once loomed over our nation for generations and welcome the dawn of a brighter future not only for the Bangsamoro people, but for all peace-loving Filipinos.”

Meanwhile, House Majority Leader Rolando Andaya Jr. said yesterday the government can always find ways to fund the P110 billion President Duterte had promised to ensure a smooth implementation of the BOL next year.

“The President has assured it will not be an unfunded mandate. It is a small price to pay for peace,” Andaya said. The Department of Budget and Management, Department of Finance, Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM), House appropriations committee and Bangsamoro leaders, he said, may work out a way to address the BOL’s funding requirements.

“The determination can be tripartite or quadripartite. First things first: determine the fiscal cost, based on the mandate of the law,” he explained.

The new Bangsamoro for Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao will be taking over ARMM.

So far, the national government initially has P72 billion for the proposed P110-billion BOL according to Andaya.

“It’s all up to the inter-governmental mechanism under the BOL, and the experts can also fix that, and on how it will be reflected in the 2019 General Appropriations Act,” the House official stressed.

Of the initial amount, P32 billion represents allocation for ARMM, P25 billion sourced from revenues generated by Internal Revenue Allotments and the P15 billion from national government agencies. – Delon Porcalla

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