WHETHER they like it or not, several Sulu leaders will have to contend with the proposed Bangsamoro Autonomous Region (BAR) without the “opt out” provision under the Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL), according to Sen. Juan Miguel Zubiri.
Zubiri issued the statement as he is set to sponsor today, Wednesday, the passage of Senate Bill 1646 or the proposed BBL measure abolishing the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) and instead creating a stronger BAR.
Zubiri, chairman of the subcommittee on BBL, hopes that the Senate will be able to pass SB 1646 on third and final reading before Congress adjourns session on March 24.
Senate President Aquilino Pimentel 3rd, as well as Senators Paolo Benigno “Bam” Aquino and Risa Hontiveros, filed their respective BBL measures.
Asked about the proposal of some Sulu local officials not to join the BAR, Zubiri said, “Well, it’s quite difficult. The plan is Sulu, Tawi-Tawi, Basilan, Maguindanao, and Lanao Sur must be the core provinces of the Bangsamoro region.”
“So, Sulu’s request, unfortunately we cannot give in because the framers do not want to. Malacanang, the President (Rodrigo Duterte), do not want an opt out for what we call the core area or core territory,” he said.
“It’s either as a whole they want to [join BAR]or as a whole they don’t want [inclusion in BAR]. Sulu is included,” the senator said.
He added, “Unfortunately, we cannot do anything about it. I tried to do the amendment but in consultation with the BTC, together with the MILF (Moro Islamic Liberation Front), they opposed [Sulu’s request].”
Asked what the highlights of his committee report would be, Zubiri said, “I will have a nice [sponsorship]speech. We will present developments in the past two decades in terms of the peace process.”
“One of the highlights of course would be the granting of the block grant, the [establishment of]autonomous government through a parliamentary system,” he said in an interview.
He also said the proposed BBL hopes to institutionalize Shari’ah law in the BAR “but only for Muslims against Muslims.” He said cases involving Christians would still be under the regional municipal trial court system.
Pressed on whether he revised SB 1646, Zubiri said, “We carried 97 percent of [the original proposed provisions in]the bill. The only changes were the opt in provision in the plebiscite.”
“What we did was, instead of 10 percent signed petition (to join BAR), we made it 20 percent. We doubled the [requirement]for the signed petition,” he said.
Zubiri was referring to the “opt in” provision under the BBL wherein areas covered under BAR could join the region provided residents present a petition “of at least 20 percent of the registered voters in the geographic area asking for their inclusion at least two months prior to the conduct of the ratification of the Basic Law.”
“At the same time, we put a provision wherein the mother unit, which is the province or the city must decide as a whole in terms of whether they want to join the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region or not,” he said. BERNADETTE E. TAMAYO