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Sub-Committee Tasked to Harmonize Bills on Proposed Bangsamoro Basic Law – ACHARON

The House committee on local government, in a joint meeting with the committee on Muslin affairs and committee on peace, reconciliation and unity, created a sub-committee that will harmonize all four bills proposing a basic law for the Bangsamoro.

The sub-committee, to be chaired by Rep. Wilter Wee Palma II (1st District, Zamboanga Sibugay) and represented by at least three members each from the three committees, will come up with a working draft bill based on House Bill 6475, 92, 6121 and 6263 authored by House Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez, Deputy Speaker Bai Sandra Sinsuat Sema (1st District, Maguindanao), Rep. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo (2nd District, Pampanga) and Rep. Mohamad Khalid Dimaporo (1st District, Lanao del Norte), respectively.

The four bills seek to provide for the BBL and abolish the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM). They seek to repeal Republic Act 9054, entitled “An Act to Strengthen and Expand the Organic Act for the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao” and RA 6374 entitled “An Act Providing for an Organic Act for the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao”.

The three committees held an initial deliberation on the BBL proposals wherein the creation of a sub-committee, which would harmonize the four bills, was approved. Rep. Pedro Acharon Jr. (1st District, South Cotabato with General Santos City), chairman of the committee on local government, said the bills seek to grant the autonomous region of Mindanao more flexibility, a wider range of authority in politics, economy and finance.

“This is to accord the people in the Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao the opportunity to chart their own future within the ambit of our constitution,” said Acharon.

He said the measures are specific to the quest for autonomy of Muslim Mindanao and yet had a significant impact as well as on the economy, finance and politics of the whole country.

Rep. Ruby Sahali (Lone District, Tawi-Tawi) chairperson of the committee on peace, reconciliation and unity, said the enactment of the BBL law is essential to solve the Bangsamoro conflict and achieve the aspiration of peace and development in Mindanao and in the whole country.

“Let us make sure that the law we’re going to legislate will be all-inclusive, meaning all the peoples’ rights within the Bangsamoro will be upheld, our dignity and cultures will be preserved and will remain intact,” Sahali said.

For his part, Rep. Mauyag Papandayan (2nd District, Lanao del Sur) chairman of the committee on Muslim Affairs, said the establishment of the Bangsamoro political entity is envisioned to address the Bangsamoro people’s long-held clamor for a genuine and meaningful governance in self-determination based on their distinct historical identity in their ancestral homeland.

“This will put to rest the decade-old armed conflict between the Bangsamoro areas and those of adjacent geographical areas in the island of Mindanao,” he said.

Deputy Speaker Sema, who was tasked by Speaker Alvarez to deliver the sponsorship speech for HB 6475, said that on 17 July 2017, the expanded Bangsamoro Transition Commission handed over to President Rodrigo Roa Duterte its final draft of the BBL that seeks to create a Bangsamoro political entity in order to correct the historical injustices inflicted upon the Muslim population.

“The restructured entity will enhance the existing system and procedures as well as establish a new set of institutional arrangements and modalities between the central government and the autonomous government with respect to the sharing of wealth and revenues, transitional aspects and normalization, meaning the decommissioning of firearms, in order to bring the lofty goals of the Bangsamoro Basic Law into fruition,” said Sema.

She said the provisions of the agreement and the political contained therein must be entered and enacted into laws.

“Congress must recognize the fundamental role in the process of bringing just and lasting peace in Mindanao by enacting the Bangsamoro Basic Law in order to usher in a new era of peace and development not only in Mindanao but throughout the republic,” said Sema.

The BBL will emerge in the fulfillment of the constitutional mandate to create an autonomous region in Muslim Mindanao truly reflective of the desires of the framers of the 1987 Constitution and the aspirations of the Bangsamoro people, said Sema.

Sema said she authored the original Bangsamoro Basic Law which did not make it in the last Congress.

Macapagal-Arroyo said her BBL bill is the Senate version in the previous Congress.

“I decided that I would file the Senate version so that we can continue the deliberation where the government left off, where the legislators left off in the previous Congress,” she said.

Macapagal-Arroyo said many of the provisions in the BBL Senate version can again be adjusted because the Senate version took into account the constitutionality issue.

Dimaporo described his bill as a solo or a stand-alone bill. He said he filed the bill for the purpose of putting on record the perspective of Lanao del Norte.

“Our perspective in Lanao del Norte is that the BBL does not only belong to the people inside the Bangsamoro territory. The Bangsamoro Basic Law belongs to all of us in Mindanao. All of us have to benefit from the BBL,” said Dimaporo.

Dimaporo explained his bill contains four salient features: the retention of public safety and national security with the national government and not devolved to the Bangsamnoro government; retaining the Commission on Audit (COA) with the national government; creation of a Deputy Ombudsman for the Bangsamoro and the deletion of the provisions on expansion.

“I see the BBL as another experiment if we do not learn the reasons why the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao failed. As a former governor of Lanao del Norte, I object the idea that I will subject my constituents and my municipalities to another experiment,” Dimaporo said.

“For me, if there will be another Bangsamoro territory, it should be the ARMM territory. We should prove to the Muslim people that they can succeed in good governance before even considering expanding outside of their territory,” he said.

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