Sen. Ferdinand Marcos Jr. on Thursday rejected a request of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) that the proposed Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) be passed untouched, saying the legislature has the power to amend or revise the measure.
Marcos, head of the Senate Committee on Local Government, said there are some provisions in the bill that should be clarified.
The senator was reacting to a letter of MILF Chairman Al Haj Murad Ibrahim to the House Ad Hoc Committee on the BBL, asking that the BBL be passed without changes.
“We cannot abandon our function to make sure that at the very least, hopefully more, that any bill we pass in Congress is legal, constitutional and enforceable. Those are the same three tests that we will apply to the Bangsamoro Basic Law,” Marcos explained.
He appealed to the MILF leadership to be “open-minded” and be “a little flexible” and allow Congress to do its job.
Marcos said lawmakers will have to scrutinize some provisions of the bill particularly those that allow the Bangsamoro government to have its counterpart Commission on Audit, Commission on Elections and Civil Service Commission.
He also wants to clarify provisions regarding the administration of local government units (LGUs) that will join the Bangsamoro unit but are not contiguous with the Bangsamoro core territory.
The senator noted that legislators want to make sure that the BBL will be an effective law.
“Let us not forget that our ultimate goal is for peace in Muslim Mindanao. And we will strive to pass the best BBL as possible so that we would achieve a true and lasting peace in Muslim Mindanao,” he said.
Senate President Pro-Tempore Ralph Recto shared Marcos’ views, saying the bill is “littered with policy landmines which must be defused.”
Recto particularly cited the provision that binds the national government, and ultimately taxpayers, to allocate large sums of money every year to the Bangsamoro government.
He explained that on the first year alone, the establishment of a Bangsamoro entity will cost P75 billion in the form of a “block grant.”
“In the draft BBL, the block grant is automatically appropriated, meaning Congress is obliged to approve it. It may be open to congressional scrutiny, but not to congressional deletion or even reduction,” Recto also noted.