By Vanne Elaine Terrazola
Senate Majority Leader Juan Miguel Zubiri confirmed that the Upper Chamber has accepted defeat on the impasse over the contentious provisions of the proposed Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) on territory and plebiscite.
Zubiri, co-chair of the Congress bicameral committee tackling the proposed BBL, said they yielded to the Palace’s position that the Senate version’s provision on the inclusion of the 39 barangays of North Cotabato and six municipalities of Lanao de Norte in the proposed Bangsamoro region without the vote of their respective mother provinces will be “unconstitutional.”
Zubiri reported this to media following their more than one hour of meeting with President Duterte at Malacañang Wednesday afternoon. Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque said President Duterte resolved the deadlock by opting to adopt the Lower House’s provisions of the measure.
“All agreed that not involving the mother provinces and municipalities during the plebiscite for the towns of Lanao Norte and Barangays of North Cotabato would be considered unconstitutional,” Zubiri said.
“And so as not to be struck down by the Supreme Court on that provision, the consensus was to adopt the House version on territory. As a good soldier, as that was the direction given, then I submit,” he added.
Zubiri, however, said that he is yet to talk to the members of the Bangsamoro Transition Commission (BTC) that pushed for the inclusion of the said villages and towns, which voted during a 2001 plebiscite to be included in the Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao (ARMM).
“We will have to manage their expectations and try to temper emotions as we are guided by the Constitution in all the work we do as legislators,” he said.
He noted that he intially talked to “some” members of the BTC who, according to him, understood their position. He later clarified that they are government representatives in the BTC.
Zubiri appealed anew for understanding that changes in the original BTC draft have to be made so as to avoid “false hopes” should they approve the proposals and be struck down by the Supreme Court later on.
This was President Duterte’s position, Zubiri said.
He appealed to Bangsamoro people not to focus on such “little snags” as he assured that the BBL that Congress will approve would still respond to their needs.
He, on the other hand, said they will leave it to the people to decide whether or not to vote for the BBL during the plebiscite.
Congress aims to finish deliberating on the proposed BBL Thursday.