SEN. Ferdinand Marcos Jr. on Thursday expressed readiness to defend his proposed Basic Law on Bangsamoro Autonomous Region when the period of interpellation on the measure begins next week although he is not expecting to have a tough time defending it.
Marcos, who heads the Senate Committee on Local Government, officially sponsored the proposed Bangsamoro law or Senate Bill 2849 in plenary on Wednesday marking the start of plenary debates that he expects to take six weeks.
In his speech, he said the substitute measure addresses constitutional flaws of the
Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL), protects the country’s interest and sovereignty and promotes the interest and aspirations of the Bangsamoro people.
Marcos, in his substitute bill, was able to allay fears raised by the public that the basic law could lead to separation of the Bangsamoro territory from the Republic of the Philippines.
He said by including a provision in the substitute bill to ensure against possible secession, the idea of a Bangsamoro Autonomous Region is now more palatable to the public and to government leaders.
Marcos, however, noted that such provision should not be taken as an insult to the Moro Islamic Liberation Front leaders or to mean that the MILF’s declaration that it will abandon secessionist plans cannot be trusted.
“My contention is although we trust our partners in peace in the MILF now, we do not know who will be their leaders in the future and perhaps they will not have the same assurances for the Philippines about not separating,” he pointed out during a news briefing after his sponsorship speech.
Marcos said while he managed to address contentious provisions in the original draft BBL, he still expects his colleagues in the Senate to propose amendments to further refine the provisions of the bill.
There were 17 senators who signed his committee report and several of them have expressed their intention to interpellate and introduce their own amendments to the measure.
The senator, however, admitted that he is not sure if the measure can be enacted before the end of the term of the current administration because, aside from the proposed Basic Law on Bangsamoro Autonomous Region, there are other priority measures scheduled for deliberation as well as other concerns that need to be attended.
The proposed 2016 budget is also a priority and need to be passed before the end of the year.
Filing of the certificate of candidacy in October for the 2016 elections could also get in the way of the deliberations on the measure.
Even if the Senate managed to pass the Bagsamoro law on third and final reading, the measure will still be subjected to the bicameral conference committee and he cannot predict how the proceedings would go.
Marcos, however, noted that the possibility of having the Bangsamoro law enacted before President Benigno Aquino 3rd steps down next year is still there but not the implementation of the law.
He said it is encouraging to note that the MILF has expressed its assurance that it would continue to work for peace even if the proposed measure fails to pass under the current administration.
Newly elected leaders of the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) claimed that the BBL will have a hard time in Muslim areas.
MNLF Vice Chairman Punduma Sani said they will be going to Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, this month to pursue implementation of the 1996 Jakarta peace accord with the Organization of Islamic Conference (OIC).
He added that the 1996 Jakarta peace agreement between the MNLF and the Philippine government is now on the last stage will be the “sword of Damocles hanging over the BBL.”
“It would be folly for the government to count MNLF Chairman Nur Misuari out. Now more than ever has the MNLF ever felt more invigorated and more intensely enthusiastic in pursuing the Bangsamoro cause,” Sani said.
He added that aside from the stalled peace accord, the Sabah issue will be taken up in the meeting with the OIC.
“We will also take up the Sabah issue, which is the historic claim of the Tausug people fully supported by the MNLF,” Sani said.
With ANTHONY VARGAS