Reconciling the three versions of the BBL
WHAT MATTERS MOST - Atty Josephus Jimenez (The Freeman) - June 10, 2018 - 12:00am

What happens when Congress resumes session on July 23, and after the President’s SONA? The biggest headache for senators and congressmen is ironing out the substantial differences between the Senate’s BBL version and that of the Lower House. But, as if that was not enough headache on how to untie the Gordian knot of conflicts and contradictions, there is a third version by the Bangsa Moro Transition Commission (BTC). The new Senate majority floor leader, Senator Juan Miguel Zubiri, smells blood in the coming debates, projecting them to be tumultuous and chaotic.

The most controversial areas of conflict include the adoption or rejection of an “opt-out provision,” sharing of wealth and revenue, sharing of powers between the Bangsa Moro and the central government, and the very sensitive issue of whether or not the central government’s armed, police, and military operations should or should not cover BBL territories. On the sharing of revenues the House and the Senate versions agreed that a block or lump sum grant of 5 percent allocation shall be granted to the Bangsa Moro each year. The BTC demands 6 percent. The one point difference mean billions. The problem with this is that the Cordilleras will soon demand for an equal, if not bigger share.

The Senate version provides that the powers of the central government shall remain vested there, except those explicitly granted by the BBL. The House version specifies all powers shall remain including financial and banking systems, armed forces, police, jail, fire protection, coast guard, and elections. The BTC version proposes all powers should be devolved to the Bangsa Moro, except defense, external security, foreign policy, monetary policy, citizenship, naturalization, immigration, customs, tariff, market and global trade, intellectual property rights, and postal services. These are very big issues to settle.

On the concurrent powers to be shared by the central government and the Bangsa Moro, the BTC proposes the inclusion of powers like land registration, penology, penitentiary, civil service, coast guard, customs and tariff, funding for national infrastructures, and public safety. The House listed 21 shared powers including power and energy, natural resources, public utility operations, budgeting, education and health. The Senate has no proposal on concurrent powers.

On the definition of Bangsamoro, the BTC defines them as those who, at the advent of the Spaniards, were natives or original inhabitants of Mindanao and the Sulu archipelago and its adjacent islands. The Senate version defines them as citizens of the Republic of the Philippines. The House is silent on this.

I agree the debates will be bloody and tumultuous. It will take much time to discuss and agree on the various issues. The BBL is President Duterte’s priority measure. I hope we can finish it before 2022.

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