Sen. Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr. on Tuesday said he is willing to talk to anyone, including President Benigno Aquino 3rd, for a genuine discussion on how to iron out kinks in the proposed Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) to ensure that it would lead to lasting peace in Muslim Mindanao.
He, however, noted in a radio interview that he would rather be counted out if the meeting was merely meant to press the Senate into passing Malacanang’s version of the BBL.
Malacañang earlier said the President is willing to meet with senators to discuss the proposed measure with them, as he had done before with members of the House of Representatives ad hoc committee.
“As I said before, if we are going to discuss with the President the various issues directly related to the BBL, and if he has suggestions to us, we would certainly listen because his inputs are important,” said Marcos, who heads the Senate Committee on Local Government, which has been conducting public hearings on the BBL.
“But it’s another matter entirely if it’s only for political maneuvering, as what was done with the House of Representatives. Then, I don’t think I should be part of that. I don’t want to be involved in anything like that,” he added.
Marcos also noted that before meeting with the President, the House ad hoc committee had agreed to line up amendments to address flaws in the BBL.
But after the meeting, he said, the committee swiftly approved the passage of a new version of the BBL, discarding changes the panel agreed upon earlier.
Marcos added that people believing the passage of the BBL was railroaded in the House ad hoc committee was fueled by reports that an LP (Liberal Party) version was given to the panel and the panel was told to take it or leave it.
He said his committee will do its best to address the issues raised against the BBL, including constitutional issues, practical administrative concerns, power sharing and inclusivity.
According to Marcos, it is inevitable that any version of the BBL that Congress approves and is signed by the President will be challenged before the Supreme Court, prompting his panel to do its best to ensure that the BBL version it will recommend will stand any constitutional challenge.
“That’s what we are doing and it’s not an easy process. So, why are we being rushed? There is no deadline in the law, there is no deadline in the Framework Agreement, there was no deadline anywhere but suddenly there was this June 11 deadline [by to pass the BBL],” he said.
Marcos described the BBL as important and complicated as it involves the lives of the people of Muslim Mindanao and the threat of war hanging over them, so it is the duty of lawmakers to ensure they would pass the best version possible.
Senator Sergio Osmeña 3rdwarned the senators against attending a meeting with the President on the proposed BBL if they do not want to be suspected of wrongdoing.
“They should learn their lesson from what happened in the past,” Osmeña told reporters as he referred to allegations that some senators received additional funds and favors when they voted for the conviction of impeached Chief Justice Renato Corona in 2012.
Senator Jose “Jinggoy” Estrada exposed then that some P50 million in additional funds, allegedly from the Disbursement Acceleration Program or DAP, were given to the senators who voted in favor of Corona’s conviction.
Osmeña said he has no plan of attending such meeting.
Marcos earlier said the local government committee would also seek to address the “shocking revelation” that the BBL was drafted without consultation with major stakeholders, including the Moro National Liberation Front, the sultanates of Sulu, the indigenous peoples and the chief executives in core areas of the Bangsamoro territory and adjacent localities.
In Monday’s hearing, for example, Marcos said, testimonies from representatives of the sultanates showed there was no consultation with them and that the hearing conducted by the Marcos committee afforded them for the first time the chance to air their views on the proposed BBL.
Marcos said none of the sultanates had authorized the Moro Islamic Liberation Front to represent them.
Also, he added, the draft BBL does not contain specific provisions allowing the sultanates to continue their governance in accordance with their ancient ways.
The sultanates have asked the Marcos committee to include provisions in the BBL creating a body to help preserve their unique history, culture and tradition, as well as guaranteed seats in the Bangsamoro parliament.
Senator Joseph Victor Ejercito said he also has no intention to join the meeting with the President.
“It is not necessary for the President to talk to senators so that he can get what he wants, the passage of the BBL. Legislators should be given space and be allowed to deliberate on a very controversial measure like the BBL. It would be better if we are left alone,” he added.
Senator Francis Escudero said while he appreciates the President’s offer, it betrays the fact that the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Preace Process has not been doing its job.
“We will not railroad the BBL. We will and should pass a correct and constitutional BBL, not a rushed one,” he added.
Sen. Juan Edgardo Angara said it would help if the Senate heard the opinion of the President.
“I believe that the senators will also respect the inputs that will be coming from the President,” he added.
Senate President Franklin Drilon said he would rather wait for the committee report that will be presented by the Marcos panel before he sits down with the President.