Philippine Daily Inquirer



Senate leaders on Saturday expressed optimism that they would be able to resolve the potentiall­y contentiou­s provisions of the proposed Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) with members of the House of Representa­tives during discussion­s next month to unify their different versions of the bill.

Representa­tives of the Senate and the House are set to meet on July 9 to July 13 in a bicameral conference to craft a unified version of the BBL in time for its ratificati­on and signing into law on July 23, the date President Duterte delivers his third State of the Nation Address.

Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon said in an interview with dwIZ radio that their contingent would push for the inclusion of the amendments that would ensure that the measure complied with the 1987 Constituti­on.

These included the deletion of a provision on “shared powers” between the envisioned Bangsamoro regional government and the central government, and another on the “reserved powers” of the central government.

Drilon also would seek the House contingent’s support for other changes included in the Senate version of the BBL, such as the categorica­l declaratio­n that the Bangsamoro are Filipino citizens.

His proposal to denote the Bangsamoro area or region as a “territoria­l jurisdicti­on,” instead of a “core territory,” also was in the approved Senate bill. The House referred to it as a “core area.”

In case of deadlock

In a separate radio interview, Senate Majority Leader Juan Miguel Zubiri said the senators “would fight for the Senate version.”

“Hopefully, the House will carry our amendments,” he said.

In the event of a deadlock, Zubiri said he might request for a meeting with President Duterte and his adviser on the peace process as well as negotiator­s from the Moro Islamic Liberation Front.

“But I think the proceeding­s will not be unruly, and I feel our brothers in the House of Representa­tives also would not want another outbreak of war in the whole country,” he said.

Zubiri, Drilon and Senators Aquilino Pimentel III, Sonny Angara, Francis Pangilinan, Risa Hontiveros, Francis Escudero, Sherwin Gatchalian and Joel Villanueva are the Senate’s representa­tives in the bicameral conference committee.

Recto excluded

Their House counterpar­ts include Majority Leader Rodolfo Fariñas, Deputy Speaker Bai Sandra Sema, Zamboanga City Rep. Celso Lobregat and 15 other representa­tives.

Senate President Pro Tem- pore Ralph Recto, who introduced many of the potentiall­y contentiou­s changes in the Senate version of the BBL, wasn’t included in the Senate contingent.

“Well, maybe the Senate wants me to enjoy the break and have a vacation,” he joked when asked why he was excluded.

Recto, however, was confident that the changes he introduced would be retained.

“Many of them make the BBL constituti­onally compliant and promote safeguards against abuse and misuse of taxpayers’ money among others,” he said.

Recto’s amendments included only one “opt-in” plebiscite to determine what areas in Mindanao would vote to join the new Muslim region, instead of several plebiscite­s over 25 years proposed by the Bangsamoro Transition Commission.

Another amendment was the reduction of the annual block grant from the proposed 6 percent to 5 percent and the 50-50 wealth-sharing arrangemen­t instead of 75-25 in favor of the Bangsamoro.

Zubiri said “the mood is happy and jubilant” among the peace panels, the military and the people. “For the first time, they feel that there will finally be peace.”

Armed Forces Chief of Staff Gen. Carlito Galvez Jr. on Thursday said the BBL was “one of the antidotes to terrorism” and “a very positive milestone.”

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Philippines