By Ellson Quismorio
A House joint panel on Tuesday afternoon approved the committee report on Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez’s proposed Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL), thus paving the way for the landmark measure’s approval before the plenary.
The measure, designated as House Bill (HB) No.6475, was adopted by the three-committee joint panel via separate voting (2-1) last April 16.
The panels, which met again Tuesday or during the resumption of sessions right after the summer break, are the House Committees on Local Government, Muslim Affairs, and the Special Committee on Peace, Reconciliation, and Unity.
Quezon City 6th district Rep. Jose Christopher Belmonte–after some discussion by his colleagues–motioned for the approval of the committee report.
In the end, the Local Government, Muslim Affairs, and the Peace, Reconciliation and Unity panels all gave their nod to the committee report via individual vote tallies of 32-3 (yes-no), 27-3, and 27-3, respectively.
“The committee report is now approved by the three committees (3-0),” declared Local Government panel chairman, South Cotabato 1st district Rep. Pedro Acharon Jr., who presided over the joint hearing.
It can be recalled that during the April 16 voting of the joint body, the Muslim Affairs and the Peace, Reconciliation and Unity panels favored the adoption of HB No. 6475, while the Local Government panel rejected it.
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 Deputy Speaker and Maguindanao 1st district Rep. Bai Sandra Sema, 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.
President Rodrigo Duterte, who is a Mindanaoan, has vowed to pass the BBL during his term.
Described as an instrument of peace in the conflict-ridden south, the BBL is the enabling law of a 2014 agreement between the Philippine government and secessionist group Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF).
The BBL primarily aims to usher in a period of peace and prosperity in Mindanao through the creation of a Bangsamoro juridical entity.
The Bangsamoro will replace the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao or ARMM, meaning the proposed law will 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.”
Under the bill, the Bangsamoro territory shall remain a part of the Philippines. It also retains the central government’s power and control over defense and external security.
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.
Although aggressively pushed by the Aquino administration, the draft BBL during the previous 16th Congress failed to get Congress approval due to its alleged plethora of unconstitutional provisions.
Also affecting the deliberations on the proposed law was the January 25, 2015, Mamasapano massacre wherein 44 members of the Philippine National Police-Special Action Force (PNP-SAF) were killed by the MILF during an anti-terror operation.