There is strength in numbers and in Sarangani Rep. Emmanuel “Manny” Pacquiao.
With the eight-division world boxing champion on their side, the majority bloc in the House of Representatives flexed its muscles on Monday and overwhelmingly voted 35-17 to retain a provision in the proposed Bangsamoro Basic Law that allows expansion of the Bangsamoro region after the enactment of the BBL.
The proposed BBL is the codification of a peace agreement between the Philippine government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) which was signed in March in March 2014.
The provision approved by the ad hoc panel states that contiguous cities/municipalities to the Bangasamoro region can join the area upon petition of 10 percent of registered voters and approval of such petition by a majority in a plebiscite, but only within five to 10 years after the BBL is enacted into law.
House Ad Hoc Committee on the BBL chairman Rufus Rodriguez of Cagayan de Oro City earlier told reporters that such provision would be deleted.
“I had a change of heart because of the middle ground that is provided in the draft,” Antipolo City Rep. Romeo Acop, vice chairman of the ad hoc panel and also a retired police general, pointed out.
“The opt-in provision is very democratic. This is for the uplifting of the quality of life in the contiguous areas. We have nothing to be afraid here because the process will only start if there is a certain 10 percent. People can’t just join by themselves,” Sulu Rep. Tupay Loong said.
Also accepted by the committee was a proposal of Iligan City Rep. Vicente Belmonte that seeks to ensure the Bangsamoro expansion will be done based on merits, not on whims of a small area.
The day was toughest and longest for Zamboanga City Rep. Celso Lobregat, who proposed one amendment after another.
Lobregat fired the opening salvo by proposing to delete “Bangsamoro people” and right to self-determination in the preamble, motions that were defeated 13-37 and 11-37, respectively.
He moved that the Bangsamoro region should be an integral and inseparable part of the Philippines but was turned down 10-34.
Lobregat made at least 14 proposals that were rejected by the ad hoc panel.
Marcos: CAB, BBL not inclusive
THE Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro (CAB) and the draft BBL were done with very little involvement of the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF), an organization that has an existing peace agreement with the Philippine government.
Sen. Ferdinand Marcos Jr., chairman of the Senate Committee on Local Government, made this conclusion after listening to positions of leaders of different factions of the MNLF during a hearing on the proposed BBL on Monday.
“The MNLF has a very clear position on how to handle different issues that were not raised on this drafting of the BBL. It is necessary because they were not consulted or consulted very marginally,” Marcos said.
The senator noted that the MNLF leaders feel that the BBL and the subsequent Bangsamoro government being proposed exclude MNLF gains made during past administrations.
Marcos was referring to the 1976 Tripoli Agreement and the the 1996 Jakarta Agreement that led to the creation of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM).
In a position paper, the MNLF said whileit is not against the CAB and the BBL, the organization is apprehensive on how the government and the MILF will dispense with the vital issues particularly in preserving the gains of the Tripoli agreement and the Jakarta agreement.
Marcos said his committee will include all concerns raised by the MNLF leaders and assured that the committee will not be rushed into approving the BBL.