SENATORS Juan Miguel Zubiri and Juan Edgardo Angara on Wednesday appealed to their colleagues to pass the proposed Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) that seeks to create a Bangsamoro Autonomous Region.
If passed into law, the BBL will abolish the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM).
“I do not want to sound like a warmonger, but if we do not heed this clamor for change in the Bangsamoro, God forbid, restlessness among the armed groups in Mindanao could spiral out of control,” said Zubiri, chairman of the Senate subcommittee on BBL.
“The possibility of another Marawi siege would not be far from the horizon. The country can no longer afford more bloodshed. Our generation has suffered long enough from the clutches of poverty, from the evils of war. Let not our children and their future suffer some more,” he added.
The members of the 21-member Bangsamoro Transition Commission that crafted the BBL led by Ghazali Jaafar were at the Senate gallery to witness the sponsorship of the measure.
Angara, chairman of the Senate Committee on Local Government, co-sponsored the BBL which, he said, has the “ultimate goal of achieving long-lasting peace and prosperity in Mindanao.”
“The BBL comprises our greatest arsenal for achieving peace. It will ensure that the region will become fertile ground, no longer for violence or terrorism, but for opportunities and active civic engagement. BBL can be life-saving, and hopefully life-changing,” he said.
Zubiri reported out Senate Bill 1717 under Committee Report 255 after conducting five public hearings and six public consultations in Marawi, Cotabato, Tawi-Tawi, Basilan, Sulu and Zamboanga City.
“After all the consultations and public hearings, we have determined that the answer to the ‘Bangsamoro Question’ should be true autonomy and self-determination, through a long-term political solution that resonates and is consistent with the Constitution,” Angara said.
Zubiri said BBL “gives greatest latitude if not full autonomy to the Bangsamoro government that will be established, to assert their political and economic self-determination and pursue development programs for their people according to their peculiar historical, cultural, religious and national identities.”
It proposes to cover “what remains of the traditional homeland of the Bangsamoro, which overtime has lost much of their territory due to colonization and some policies that have deprived them of their lands and marginalized them such as the earlier land registration acts that did not provide them opportunity to register their lands or settlement programs that offered their lands to settlers from Luzon and the Visayas,” he said.
The core territory includes the present territory of the ARMM such as Maguindanao, Lanao del Sur, Tawi-Tawi, Basilan, and Sulu; six municipalities in Lanao del Norte; cities of Cotabato and Isabela; 39 barangays in North Cotabato; and contiguous areas that may petition to join the Bangsamoro.
Among the highlights of the BBL is a provision which states that reserved powers are matters over which authority and jurisdiction are “retained by the Central Government.”
“The list of reserved powers would pertain to powers that are the attribute of a sovereign country and are important in maintaining its independence and ability to relate to other countries such as foreign policy, defense, citizenship and others,” Zubiri said.
To guard against allegations of rampant corruption in the ARMM, the proposed law proposes the creation of a Bangsamoro Auditing Office (BAO) which shall conduct pre-audit and post-audit.
The BBL provides for a Special Development Fund of P100 billion designed to rehabilitate damaged infrastructure in the region as a result of decades of war.
“The fund will be released in 10 equal installments for a period of 10 years and will be utilized based on Development Plan crafted by them. This fund will allow them also to catch up with the rest of the country,” Zubiri said.
President Rodrigo Duterte on Wednesday expressed confidence that the BBL will be passed.
In his speech during the inauguration of a housing project in Marawi City, the chief executive assured the public that he would ensure the passage of BBL before the proposed federal type of government.
“You can see the sincerity of government at least during my time, believe me because you have a Maranao president. Sinasabi ko na sa inyo ‘yan, ‘yang BBL na ‘yan, titingnan namin, lulusot ‘yan (I already told you, the BBL, we’re looking at it, it will be passed),” he said.
The President also reiterated that he has no intention of extending his term, which will end in 2022.
He stressed that he will cut short his presidency if the Constitution is amended to pave way for a federal state.
“If it’s earlier than 2020, ‘pag meron federal at bagong presidente (if there’s a federal government and new president) which will call for an election, I will step down by 2020. Hindi ko na hintayin ‘yung 2022 (I will not wait for 2022),” Duterte said.
“Sabi nila, ‘Si Duterte gusto lang niya na maipasa ‘yung federal pati BBL kasi gusto niyang mag-diktador.’
Matanda na po ako. Wala akong ambisyon na ganun. Gusto ko ng makapaghinga (They said, ‘Duterte wanted to pass federalism and BBL because he wants to be a dictator…’ I’m too old. I don’t have that ambition. I just want to rest),” he added.
With CATHERINE S. VALENTE