Sen. Ferdinand Marcos Jr. on Thursday found an ally in no less than Senate President Franklin Drilon, who said he agrees with the opposition senator that the draft Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) has to conform with the Constitution.
Drilon, also chaiman of the administration-backed Liberal Party, said the Senate has consistently been saying that it would review the proposed law and make sure it is within the four corners of the 1987 Constitution.
“This is something that all senators agree on. So, we will debate on the substitute bill when it is submitted to the chamber and we have many common grounds, One, it should pass the constitutional test; two, it should result in peace in Mindanao; and three, that national interest should be served,” he told reporters in a forum.
Marcos, chairman of the Senate Committee on Local Government that reviewed the draft BBL, in a privilege speech on Wednesday said the BBL in its present form and substance would not bring the country any closer to peace and instead would lead to armed conflict.
One of the reasons is failure of the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process (OPAPP) to conduct substantive consultations with other stakeholders in Mindanao, among them, Moro National Liberation Front, Sultanate of Sulu, indigenous peoples, local government units and businesses on the BBL.
Marcos said he cannot support the BBL in its present form and that is why he is preparing a substitute bill that would be for the good of everyone.
Drilon, when asked about the substitute bill, said it is the prerogative of the Marcos committee to come up with its version of the bill based on hearings it conducted.
He added that it is called a substitute bill because it does not refer to Section 1 of the BBL as submitted by Malacañang.
“So, maybe, he [Marcos], instead of going through an amendment of the measure, thinks that it is more convenient [for him]to present for debate a substitute bill,” Drilon explained
“I don’t think the statement of Senator Marcos should cause much concern,” he said.
According to the Senate President, the position of the senators from the very start is that they will examine closely the draft law and debate on it.
He noted that the Senate is a collegial body and no one can dictate on it.
Marcos, in a statement, said the substitute bill to the draft BBL would address the serious security concerns raised by the Association of General and Flag Officers (AGFO) led by retired Lt. Gen. Edilberto Adan in the last committee hearing.
AGFO, in a position paper it submitted to the committee, noted that the draft BBL “contains provisions which can create more problems that it can solve” but lacking in provisions that would ensure its workability.
The group wants the BBL to include a provision explicitly stating that the Bangsamoro or the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) renounces forever its avowed separatist policy and goal of independence and pledges to remain under or be a part of the Republic of the Philippines.
AGFO is also pushing for the deletion of the provision allowing the creation of the Armed Forces of Philippines (AFP) Bangsamoro Command and the Bangsamoro Police.
“Instead the ARMM Regional Police [at present]should be reconstituted to become the Bangsamoro Region Police Office under the Philippine National Police,” the group said.
Disarmament, demobilization and reintegration should be carried out in a process that has definite timelines and that all provisions on redeployment of armed forces should be omitted or repealed.
“We intend to incorporate in the substitute bill the inputs of our retired generals. Many of them have a wealth of personal knowledge and experience as veterans in the war against insurgency and terrorism in Mindanao,” Marcos said.
Palace turns to allies
Malacañang also on Thursday said it remains confident that the proposed BBL will pass through the Senate, albeit roughly, with the help of administration allies in the chamber.
“We will leave it with our allies in the Senate to do what is proper. We believe that the [BBL] as drafted is the best course of action,” Palace spokesman Edwin Lacierda told a news briefing, in reaction to Marcos junking the government’s version of the BBL which, the lawmaker said, will only “lead to perdition.”
“Certainly, we have some disagreements with [Marcos] on the BBL, but we believe that the BBL, as drafted and as reviewed by our office and as well as by the (Bangsamoro Transition) Commission, would stand scrutiny,” Lacierda said.
“It has already passed through the House. So we hope that the Senate will be able to come up with a BBL that will be acceptable to all stakeholders,” he added.
According to Lacierda, President Benigno Aquino 3rd may have already been informed about Marcos’ rejection of the BBL.
He said they have not seen whatever draft substitute bill Marcos has in mind but a meeting with their allies would be scheduled to discuss the matter “as to the best course of action.”
Lacierda expressed hope that their allies in the Senate can help the government hurdle snags in the Marcos committee.
Why blame BBL?
Muslim lawmakers also on Thursday assailed Marcos for raising the armed conflict card in junking the proposed BBL.
“He is missing the point. The armed conflict has been going on for almost 50 years now since the time of his father [President Ferdinand Marcos]. The proposed Bangsamoro law’s very purpose is to address the cause of this armed conflict to give it an end,” Anak Mindanao party-list Rep. Sitti Hataman Sitti said..
“The armed conflict is already there. And the President [Benigno Aquino 3rd] is looking for alternative because otherwise, armed conflict will always be there. The armed conflict in Mindanao started during the time of then-President Marcos, and we had been trying to initiate things that can resolve this problem,” Basilan Rep. Jim Hataman said.
The Hatamans were also baffled with Marcos’ criticism of the Bangsamoro Parliament’s exclusive powers.
“These powers, although exercised primarily by the Bangsamoro, will be without prejudice to the powers and jurisdiction of the State,” Sitti said.
“These peace initiatives, including the exclusive powers in an autonomy, started 17 said.
WITH LLANESCA T. PANTI