By Ellson Quismorio
Two out of three Lower House committees on Monday approved Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez’s House Bill (HB) No.6475, which aims to establish the Bangsamoro Basic Law or BBL.
The Committee on Muslim Affairs, voting 5-3, and the Special Committee on Peace, Unity and Reconciliation, voting 6-4, approved the motion to pass HB No. 6475 as the House’s BBL version and retain all of the bill’s provisions. However, the Committee on Local Governments rejected the motion by a vote of 1-9.
House Deputy Speaker and Maguindanao 1st district Rep. Bai Sandra Sema raised the motion to pass the measure during the joint meeting of the three panels, which has been tasked to handle bills on the BBL.
Principally authored by Davao del Norte 1st district Rep. Alvarez, HB No.6475 is among the four BBL proposals filed in the House of Representatives this 17th Congress.
The other three are HB Nos. 92, 6121, and 6263 authored by Pampanga 2nd district Rep. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, and Lanao del Norte 1st district Rep. Mohamad Khalid Dimaporo, respectively.
The Speaker’s bill is the same as the BBL version submitted by the Bangsamoro Transition Commission (BTC) to Congress in July 2017.
The enabling law of a 2014 agreement between the Philippine government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), the proposed BBL primarily aims to usher in a period of peace and prosperity in Mindanao with the creation of a Bangsamoro juridical entity. This entity will replace the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM).
The previous draft BBL that was aggressively pushed by the Aquino administration was said to be replete with unconstitutional provisions; and as such it didn’t prosper in Congress.
President Rodrigo Duterte, who is a Mindanaoan, has vowed to pass the BBL during his term.
If enacted, HB No.6475 would repeal Republic Act (RA) No. 9054, titled “An Act to Strengthen And Expand the Organic Act for the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao” and RA No. 6734, titled “An Act Providing for An Organic Act for the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao.”
The measure seeks to establish a political entity, provide for its basic structure of government in recognition of the justness and legitimacy of the cause of the Bangsamoro people and their aspiration to chart their political future through a democratic process that will secure their identity and posterity and allow for a meaningful self-governance.
Under the bill, the Bangsamoro territory shall remain a part of the Philippines.
The measure delineates the core territory of the Bangsamoro to be composed of:: 1) the present geographical area of the ARMM; 2) the Municipalities of Baloi, Munai, Nunungan, Pantar, Tagolan and Tangkal in the province of Lanao del Norte and all other barangays in the Municipalities of Kabacan, Carmen, Aleosan, Pigkawayan, Pikit, and Midsayap that voted for inclusion in the ARMM during the 2001 plebiscite; 3) the cities of Cotabatao and Isabela; and 4) all other contiguous areas where there is resolution of the local government unit or a petition of at least 10 percent of the registered voters in the area asking for their inclusion at least two months prior to the conduct of the ratification of the Basic Law and the process of delimitation of the Bangsamoro.
To ensure the widest acceptability of the BBL in the core areas, a popular ratification shall be conducted among all the Bangsamoro within the areas for their adoption.
HB No.6475 retains the central government’s power and control over defense and external security.
It provides that the defense of the Bangsamoro shall be the responsibility of the Central Government. The Central Government shall create a Bangsamoro Military Command of the Armed Forces of the Philippines for the Bangsamoro, which shall be organized, maintained, and utilized in accordance with national laws.
The measure also calls for the creation of a Bangsamoro Police for law enforcement and maintenance of peace and order in the Bangsamoro but it shall be part of the Philippine National Police.