DAVAO CITY – The legal counsel of the government peace panel expressed confidence that Congress will finalize the Bangsamoro Basic Law by March that will mandate the administrative and economic functions of the new Bangsamoro autonomous region.
Once passed, the law will create the new region, which include the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM), as part of the peace agreement signed in 2013 with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF).
Legal counsel Al Amin Julkipli said during the year-end Kapehan sa SM that they are optimistic that Congress would meet this timetable before heading to the election season by October.
He said the House of Representatives Ad Hoc Committee on the BBL will hold its last two consultations this January 19 and 20 before going to executive sessions to “clean up” the draft.
The 55-member committee conducted 34 public hearings from October to December in Mindanao including Davao, Zamboanga, Kidapawan, Butuan and in Visayas including Cebu and Iloilo.
He said after the passage of the BBL in March, the plebiscite will be conducted in May or June for areas deemed as Bangsamoro political territories if they vote affirmative to join the region. This will be followed by the formation of the Bangsamoro Transition Authority to facilitate the transition of administrative functions from the ARMM that will be dissolved after the BBL passage.
Language and constitutionality
Julkipli said they are confident that the law will pass through Constitutional scrutiny as the House committee members had gathered substantial comments and questions on the BBL that will guide them when they tackle the draft in their executive sessions.
He downplayed insinuations that the House may call for Constitutional Change to conform with the BBL.
“There are moves from Congress on formulating the language to conform with the Constitution. In other words, we don’t have to change the Constitution, we just have to clean up the language of the bill,” explained Julkipli .
“They will go through line by line of the draft and clean up some lines to conform to the Constitution,” he added.
Julkipli clarified that Congress will not make a “watered down” version of the BBL draft, as he said what the House will come up “will be an improved version” of the BBL.
He added that peace panels from both government and MILF are also opening their lines of communications to keep updates on the status of the BBL.
Last year, the MILF leaders expressed concern over the national government’s revision of their draft, which almost hit an impasse during the series of “workshops” to adjust portions of the BBL.
A member of the House committee, Bayan Muna Representative Carlos Isagani Zarate, told Davao Today that the questions on the BBL goes beyond the “language engineering” that the government wants to achieve.
He noted that the passage of the BBL would mean repealing the Republic Act 9054, the Organic Act of the ARMM. But this may not sit well with the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF), the predecessor of the MILF.
On January 20, the committee has invited representatives from all factions of the MNLF and the MILF-faction the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters to hear their comments on the BBL. He said he would expect the MNLF to raise questions on how government will honor their Final Peace Agreement (FPA) signed in 1996.
“The fact that the MNLF especially Chairman Nur Misuari has raised that the government has failed to fully implement the FPA, they will raise questions on how the government and the Bangsamoro Region will address this,” he said.
According to Zarate, the consultations brokered by the Bangsamoro Consultation Forum between MILF and MNLF and other groups have not discussed the substantive issues such as the 42 consensus points from the FPA.
Zarate noted that committee members raised various questions on the Constitutionality of the BBL such as inclusion of barangays into the Bangsamoro territory and on economic sharing ; he thinks that this may be raised to the Supreme Court next year if the law gets through Congress.
Julkipli, meanwhile, said the peace panel will continue its implementation of the peace agreement and process of transition and normalization regardless of the legal impasse.
Zarate expressed concern that while government is pursuing such timetable, their version of the Bangsamoro law may be watered down from its original version.
“Definitely I see that Congress will pass the BBL, but whether this version will be acceptable to the MILF remains to be seen,” Zarate told Davao Today.
He said that his Makabayan coalition will continue to support the Moro people’s right to self determination and autonomy beyond the current state of Constitutional questions on the BBL. (davaotoday.com)