Two days after Sen. Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr. publicly rejected the Palace version of the draft Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL), a spokesman said on Friday they will welcome any changes that would be introduced to the proposal as long as these do not dilute the spirit of the measure.
Malacañang deputy spokesman Abigail Valte said President Benigno Aquino 3rd had been informed about developments at the Senate, particularly Marcos’ decision to introduce an alternate bill in lieu of the original BBL.
Marcos is the chairman of the Senate Committee on Local Government, which had reviewed the draft BBL that was submitted for legislation by Malacañang.
“We give the President updates about what’s going on here although he is still in Japan. He heard about it. But the specific provisions that [Marcos] wants substituted are still unknown to us,” Valte said.
“We are open to changes provided that they do not dilute the true spirit of autonomy that we want the region to have,” she added.
The Palace official said they will continue to work with Congress on the matter and that they are monitoring the developments.
“As far as the executive is concerned, we also continue to work with our fellows in Congress and in the Senate by participating in their hearings and participating in consultations regarding several provisions that may be of concern to our legislators. So by that participation, we also ensure that our legislators get the correct information or the correct data on a particular provision that is of concern to them,” Valte explained.
According to her, even the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) is doing its own monitoring over concerns that the BBL may be diluted.
When asked if the Palace still expects the odds to turn in its favor, she replied, “We remain optimistic on that matter.”
Senate President Franklin Drilon sided with Marcos’ position that the BBL has to conform with the Constitution.
Drilon, also chairman of the administration-backed Liberal Party, said the Senate has consistently been saying it would review the proposed law and make sure it is within the four corners of the 1987 Constitution.
Marcos 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.
He cited failure of the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process 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 also on Friday said he is not afraid of any backlash from Malacañang.
“Matagal na ako sa pulitika, matagal na kong takot, so walang pagbabago [I have been in politics for a long time, I have been afraid for a long time, so it changes nothing],” he noted in an interview.
Marcos, who plans to have another committee hearing on the proposed law, said the would thoroughly study the BBL and look at it line by line and provision by provision to make sure that the substitute bill that he will be presenting in July would include concerns raised recently by other stakeholders.
He added that he still cannot say how extensive the changes would be but that the new version would be able to withstand constitutional tests.