MANILA, Philippines — The Congressional bicameral panel approved on Wednesday night the final version of the Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL), renamed as the Organic Law for the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM) or the Bangsamoro Organic Law (BOL), after six days of marathon hearings.
Senate Majority Leader Juan Miguel Zubiri and House Majority Leader Rodolfo Fariñas led the bicameral conference committee in the reconciliation of House Bill 6475 and Senate Bill 1717, which began on July 9.
The 28-member panel is set to submit the reconciled version of the landmark measure to President Rodrigo Duterte for review. The Congress will then ratify it on July 23, after which the President is expected to sign it into law, in time for his third State of the Nation Address.
Zubiri earlier said the measure would be ratified through a plebiscite in November 2018, which would be followed by the President’s appointment of the members of the Bangsamoro Transition Authority by December 2018 or January 2019.
Once the bill is signed into law, a Bangsamoro government (the BARMM) would be established, headed by a chief minister and a ceremonial leader called a Wali.
There would also be a parliament composed of 80 members – 50 percent party representatives, 40 percent district representatives, and 10 percent sectoral representatives, including two reserved seats for “non-Moro indigenous peoples and settler communities.”
But the Bangsamoro government would not have its own military and police force, as their security forces would still be under the Philippine National Police.
The panel also earlier adopted the House provision on the Bangsamoro territory and plebiscite, which states that local government units may join the envisioned region only if their mother province or town would also vote in favor of inclusion.
75-25 wealth sharing, block grant, special development fund
The panels have also agreed on the 75-25 wealth-sharing term in favor of the Bangsamoro government. This increases the share of the Bangsamoro government in tax revenues by 5 percent compared with the current 70 percent being received by the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) from national internal revenue taxes, fees, and charges, as well as taxes imposed on natural resources.
The automatic allocation of the annual block grant for the Bangsamoro region has also been adopted by the committee. This is equivalent to five percent of the net national internal revenue of the Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR) and the Bureau of Customs (BOC).
The national government will also allocate P5 billion to the Bangsamoro government annually for a period of 10 years, for the rehabilitation of conflict-affected areas within the region. This is equivalent to P50 billion for the entire implementation.
Shari’ah or Islamic Law
Aside from regular courts within the Bangsamoro territory, which will continue to exercise their judicial functions provided by national law, the panel also allowed the Bangsamoro to implement Shari’ah exclusively to cases involving Muslims.
Meanwhile, tribal laws will be applicable to disputes of indigenous peoples within the Bangsamoro.
“Nagpapasalamat po kami (We are thankful) for the members of the Bicameral Conference at naipasa itong (for passing the) Bangsamoro Basic Law which is very very very important for the Moro people — not only for the Moro people but for our region,” Bangsamoro Transition Commission (BTC) Chair Ghazali Jaafar said to the committee.
The BTC was the body earlier tasked to draft a BBL version that is in line with all agreements entered and that may be entered into by the Government of the Republic of the Philippines (GRP) and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF).
Fariñas also assured that the reconciled version will pass the test of constitutionality.
“We were very careful. Precisely, we had many problems because we cannot grant everything they want. In fairness to them, they accepted everything. We want to bring it to the Supreme Court because if it passes the test of constitutionality, mas maganda,” he said, as he thanked the BTC, the MILF and the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) for their cooperation.
Zubiri, for his part, stressed that the organic law would foster peace and development not only in the Bangsamoro region but in the whole country.
“We are overwhelmed with emotions. The development of these areas will be the development of the whole Mindanao. The development of these regions will be the phenomenal growth of the whole Philippines,” he said
“So when the guns go silent in the island of Mindanao, that will be to the advantage of the whole Filipinos living north, south, west, and east of our country,” he added.
But not everyone is happy with the outcome of the measure, particularly the more than 6,000 permanent ARMM employees who would be laid off due to a provision under the bill.
Under the BOL, only ARMM employees in the education, health, and social welfare sectors will be absorbed by the new Bangsamoro government.
“We seriously and strongly demand the full and unconditional absorption of ARMM permanent employees to the incoming Bangsamoro in ARMM in accordance with existing laws and Supreme Court decisions that protect the rights and security of tenure of permanent employees of the Philippine government including the present ARMM,” the ARMM Employees Welfare Group said in a statement.
Anak Mindanao Rep. Amihilda Sangcopan lamented this, moments after the measure was approved by the panel last night.
“Our dearly beloved employees of the current ARMM, we have fought hard to keep our promise and know that we have also fought to ensure that you will get what is due you as government workers who daily put in the time and effort to push for peace and development in the Bangsamoro,” she said. (davaotoday.com)