SEN. Ferdinand Marcos Jr. on Tuesday said unrealistic and improbable promises made by government negotiators to the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) are the reasons why the proposed Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) finds little traction in Congress and is facing legal questions in the Supreme Court (SC).
Marcos, chairman of the Senate Committee on Local Government, which had disapproved the BBL draft, noted that the proposed law seeks to grant the Bangsamoro government powers normally reserved for the national government such as its own security force, Commission on Audit, Commission on Elections and trial courts.
“The proposed BBL is unbelievable for the sheer extravagance of the concessions the government makes to the MILF,” Marcos said in a speech before members of the Philippine Constitution Association (Philconsa).
He was Philconsa’s guest of honor and speaker. The senator and namesake of his father, the late former President Marcos, was also recognized as “The Great Protector of the Constitution.”
Compared to the Memorandum of Agreement on Ancestral Domain (MOA-AD) undertaken by the previous administration that some political scientists viewed as a case of thinking “out of the box” in order to establish an alternative process for lasting peace in Mindanao, the BBL and the comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro (CAB) are in the “vacuum of outer space.”
“This is the reason why controversy hounds the Bangsamoro experiment everywhere it turns, and why it finds scant support and little traction in Congress and in public opinion across the nation,” Marcos said.
The senator added that upgrading and strengthening the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) may be the better way forward for peace and development in Muslim Mindanao.
The ARMM, he said, has been in existence for two decades with a bureaucracy of 26,000 civil servants and had a democratically elected government for almost as long.
“I cannot agree with the assertion that the ARMM is a failed experiment. Rather it is my view that it is an ongoing experiment that may have flaws and weaknesses but it is precisely our function to strengthen and correct those as we learn from experience,” the senator added.
Such reasoning, Marcos said, is used to give the MILF supremacy over the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) in the final result that is the Bangsamoro government.
ARMM is the product of a peace agreement between the MNLF and the government.
Marcos pointed out that constitutional infirmities found in the BBL and lack of consultation with other stakeholders in Mindanao whose well-being and welfare will be greatly affected by the changes contemplated by the proposed law doom the Bangsamoro project to rejection.
The senator noted that is it not enough to just restrain the passage of the BBL as originally drafted by Malacanang and the MILF, what is needed is to come up with a system that would work.
Marcos said he is convinced that the best approach is a full-scale modernization program for all of Mindanao in politics, economy and culture..
He added that the amount of money President Benigno Aquino 3rd’s administration is prepared to commit to its BBL experiment is enough to design the equivalent of an accelerated development plan for Mindanao.
The Bangsamoro, on the first year alone of its operation, would get an estimated total funding of P75 billion.
“If we combine internal funds with financial assistance from international institutions and foreign countries, we can mobilize funds on a scale that will not fall short of effecting the full transformation of Mindanao into a hive of modernization and productivity for the nation,” Marcos said.
In carrying out the Mindanao modernization program, he added, essential elements such as full-scale pacification and law enforcement; modernization of major infrastructure, transportation and civil service; and efficient delivery of basic services must be present.
“Mindanao’s modernization is the vision that I will introduce in either my substitute bill for the BBL or an amendment to the organic act for ARMM, which I will submit to Congress. I will request the support of both Houses of Congress to join me in this program of transformation,” Marcos said in his speech during the Philconsa event.
Philconsa has asked the Supreme Court to declare unconstitutional the Framework Agreement on the Bangsamoro (FAB) and the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro (CAB) between the MILF and the Philippine government, which serve as the basis of BBL.
Philconsa argued the government peace panel has no power to commit to provisions in the agreements that would cause amendments to the Constitution and existing laws.