MANILA, Philippines — In just one night of marathon sessions, both chambers of Congress unanimously passed their respective versions of the Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) which seeks to abolish the Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao (ARMM).
At around 5:00 p.m. last Wednesday, the last session day before Congress went into recess, the House of Representatives, voting 227-11 with two abstentions, adopted without amendments a substitute bill based on House Bill No. 6475, authored by Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez.
Those who voted no to BBL were Makabayan opposition bloc Representatives Arlene Brosas, Ariel Casilao, France Castro, Emmi de Jesus, Sarah Elago, Antonio Tinio, and Carlos Zarate, as well as Albay 1st District Rep. Edcel Lagman, Cagayan de Oro 2nd District Rep. Maximo Rodriguez, Zamboanga City 2nd District Rep. Mannix Dalipe and Zamboanga del Norte 3rd District Rep. sagani Amatong.
Zamboanga 1st District Rep. Celso Lobregat and Lanao del Norte 2nd District Rep. Abdullah Dimaporo abstained.
In Senate, all 21 senators present voted in favor of the BBL. Senator Leila de Lima, who is detained at Camp Crame, and Senator Manny Pacquiao, who is training for his next fight, were absent.
Both chambers approved their versions of the BBL on second and final readings on the same night following President Rodrigo Duterte’s certification of the bills as urgent on Tuesday afternoon.
The two chambers are poised to meet in a bicameral conference committee to reconcile their versions of the bill.
Congress leaders aimed to ratify the final version of the measure in the morning of July 23, so they could send it to Duterte for signature in the afternoon, in time his third State of the Nation Address (SONA).
Under the proposed BBL of the House, there would only be one plebiscite which would be held between 90 to 120 days upon the BBL’s effectivity. This is contrary to HB 6475’s original version mandating a plebiscite every five years for a period of 25 years after the creation of the Bangsamoro. The said change is also contrary to the Bangsamoro Transition Commission (BTC)’s proposal.
The said plebiscite will still be managed by the Commission on Elections, under the House’s version.
Meanwhile, uniformed services in the Bangsamoro would still be under the Philippine National Police (PNP) and independent constitutional bodies such as the Commission on Audit would still be under the national government.
The Bangsamoro’s block grant would be reduced from 6 percent to 5 percent of the national revenue from the collections of the Bureau of Internal Revenue and Bureau of Customs.
The block grant is the automatically-appropriated annual budget or development fund for the Bangsamoro.
Among the contentious changes made by the Senate in their version of the BBL were the part where the Bangsamoro people should be considered “citizens of the Republic of the Philippines,” and their area in Mindanao should be their “territorial jurisdiction,” instead of their “core territory.”
Other key amendments were the exclusion of Palawan from the islands identified as part of the Islamic historical range, and the designation of the Bangsamoro police force as a unit of the PNP. (davaotoday. com)