By Ellson Quismorio
The draft Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) being perused by the Bicameral Conference Committee isn’t a watered-down version of the Bangsamoro Transition Commission’s (BTC) original proposal that it submitted to Malacañang.
This statement was made by BTC Chairman Ghazali Jaafar during the fourth day of the high-stakes Bicam meetings on the BBL at the House of Representatives.
In fact, Jaafar, vice chairman of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), expects the resulting measure from the Bicam to be a vast improvement on the law that gave them the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM).
“We don’t consider this as a watered-down BBL. The fact is that the BBL now as we see it, unless it is changed drastically, it is no longer ARMM-minus. It is ARMM-plus plus plus,” Jaafar told reporters.
Once enacted, the BBL will abolish the ARMM and put in place the Bangsamoro juridical entity. This is in line with the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro (CAB) signed by the Philippine government and secessionist group MILF back in 2014.
Jaafar gave this assessment despite the BTC’s not getting its way with the proposed single-majority vote inclusion of some 39 barangays in North Cotabato and six towns in Lanao del Norte in the Bangsamoro region under the landmark law.
On Wednesday afternoon, the House and Senate panels of the Bicam took the stalemate on the matter of territory and plebiscite before President Rodrigo Duterte, a Mindanaoan.
The Chief Executive ultimately decided to favor double-majority vote inclusion, meaning the villages and municipalities would have to vote “yes” to inclusion in the Bangsamoro and then get the blessing of their mother local government units (North Cotabato and Lanao del Norte, responsibility) in another majority vote to formalize the move.
Jaafar said he understood the decision of the Palace, which was done for the sake of constitutionality.
“Naniniwala kami doon sa reason ng mahal naming Pangulo kung bakit kinakailangang itong dadaan sa double-majority (We believe in the reason of our beloved President as to why it has to go through a double-majority),” he said, adding that they respect Duterte.
The House panel favored the double-majority vote inclusion, while its Senate counterpart and the BTC preferred the single vote method.
The 39 barangays and six towns are currently part of ARMM.
Duterte overhauled the composition of the BTC at the start of his administration in 2016 and tasked it to submit a draft BBL. The measure failed to pass during the previous Aquino government due to questions on constitutionality.
The BBL draft that the BTC submitted to Malacañang last July 17, 2017, contained 18 articles spread across 114 pages.