• House clips proposed Bangsa region, powers

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    The House of Representatives has weeded out expansion of the proposed Bangsamoro Region, among other perceived unconstitutional provisions, from the proposed Bangsamoro law in a bid to gain more support for the measure’s passage.

    Cagayan de Oro City Rep. Rufus Rodriguez, chairman of the House Ad Hoc Committee on the proposed law for the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region, on Tuesday disclosed the move with nine session days left before Congress adjourns to give way for the election campaign period.

    The proposed law for the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region–the fruit of a peace agreement between the government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF)–will create the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region that will be guaranteed fiscal autonomy and be governed by the Bangsamoro Parliament elected by the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region’s inhabitants.

    In addition, the Bangsamoro Region will be receiving an annual block grant–2.4 percent of the national tax collection–a Special Development Fund worth P17 billion (P7 billion initially and P2 billion for the next five years) and a P1 billion transition fund for infrastructure construction and rehabilitation work.

    “We have a substitute bill in House Bill 5811, and it is now Bangsamoro law for the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region, to emphasize that the Bangsamoro is a region, not a sub-state. The opt-in provision that will expand the area of Bangsamoro has been deleted with the agreement of House leadership,” Rodriguez told reporters.

    He was referring to the opt-in provision under the initial proposed Bangsamoro law that would expand the core Bangsamoro area to the contiguous areas thru a plebiscite.

    “This [opt-in] was taken out because under the Constitution, only Congress can expand the juridical area of the region,” Rodriguez said.

    Aside from the provision on expanded Bangsamoro Region, other salient provisions deleted by House of Representatives include those on Bangsamoro military command, Bangsamoro police, as well as Bangsamoro auditing body, Bangsamoro Civil Service Commission and a Bangsamoro poll body.

    “The Constitution provides that the country should only have one police force and all units should be an integral part of PN [Philippine National Police]. They will have regional offices of the constitutional offices that will be under the COA [Commission on Audit], CSC [Civil Service Commission] and Comelec [Commission on Elections]. More important, the power to investigate [Bangsamoro officals] will always be with the Ombudsman,” Rodriguez said.

    The deletions were among the 40 amendments that Rodriguez’s panel made to the original proposal.

    “With the deletion of unconstitutional provisions, we are hoping that the resistance to the bill will decrease and the lawmakers will be able to come up with and have quorum from start to finish,” Rodriguez said.

    MILF Chairman Mohagher Iqbal has written Speaker Feliciano Belmonte Jr. to reinstate at least 28 provisions that were removed by Rodriguez’s ad hoc panel but the lawmakers refused to give in to Iqbal’s request.

    “We removed them because they are unconstitutional and they create a sub-state. With these 40 amendments, we made sure that our bill is compliant with the Constitution. Because of these 40 deletions, the concerns of lawmakers have already been addressed,” Rodriguez said.

    The House of Representatives ended the period of interpellation on the proposed Bangsamoro measure last December but it is yet to proceed to the period of amendments en route to the second and third reading approval.

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