Duterte ready with EO if Congress fails to pass BBL
TAGUM CITY — Should Congress fail to put together a proposed law that grants territory to a new autonomous political entity for the Bangsamoro region — one that passes Supreme Court scrutiny — President Rodrigo Duterte would turn to an executive order to break the impasse.
The President made this statement on Friday night as he urged Congress to craft a Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) that could overcome every constitutional challenge.
“About the Muslim insurgency, I am really waiting for the product of Congress. But I have my own, it is Executive Order No. 10,” Mr. Duterte said in a speech before some 1,200 politicians and other prominent individuals who attended Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez’s birthday celebration here.
The President issued EO 10 in December 2016 creating a consultative committee to review and conduct consultations on the 1987 Constitution.
He has refrained, though, from appointing anyone to the 25-member body pending the results of Congress deliberations.
“I would not want to unleash it yet out of respect to Congress,” he said.
Mr. Duterte had earlier said that he did not think the proposed BBL, in its present form, could hurdle constitutional barriers.
The Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) did not reply to the Inquirer’s request for comment.
But earlier, the Bangsamoro Transition Committee (BTC), the body that crafted the original BBL, passed a resolution urging lawmakers to approve the proposed BBL in its original form.
In his speech, Mr. Duterte said that Congress could proceed on a clearer course by inviting resource persons such as retired Chief Justice Reynato Puno.
Federal form of gov’t
Puno had earlier said that for the BBL to have a bigger chance of success, the Constitution should be amended to pave the way for a federal form of government.
Only a federal form of government, according to the former chief magistrate, could satisfy the identity-based demands of the Bangsamoro for the establishment of an autonomous government.
“If you want some resource persons, we start with Justice Puno. If you want to hear them, I’d be glad to transmit the message,” the President said.
Mr. Duterte told reporters in Malacañang in November last year that he saw rough sailing for BBL under the present form of government.
“I’m saying that it will be very difficult for this bill to overcome a constitutional challenge before the Supreme Court because precisely, we have a unitary government that is not empowered to grant these identity-based demands of our Muslim brothers,” he said.
It is important that the Moro people have their own government so that war could be prevented in the region, he said, adding he was ready “to concede something” to make this a reality.
“I’ve already said this and I am saying it again, without really batting an eyelash: If we cannot concede something that would require a correction of a wrong … it is important that they be given [Bangsamoro autonomy] because if not, I am afraid there will be war,” Mr. Duterte said.
“It is that dangerous,” he stressed.
Tens of thousands have been killed in the course of the Moro rebellion that started in the late 1960s. The conflict simmers to this day with the emergence of various Moro armed groups, some of which have adopted radicalism and allied themselves with Islamic State.
The President had earlier said that the only way to stem radicalism among the Moro youth was for the government to grant self-governance to Muslim Filipinos.
On Dec. 19 last year, however, he admitted that the framers of the proposed BBL should go back to the drawing board as it could not overcome constitutional scrutiny.
“I do not think that it will hurdle … the constitutional barriers,” he said then.
If Congress could not give self-autonomy to the Bangsamoro, lawmakers should help him “think of ways how to do it,” Mr. Duterte said.
Senate President Aquilino Pimentel III has said that one of the questions that could be thrown at the original BBL, drafted by the MILF’s BTC, was the provision on the creation of a parliamentary government.
He said it gave the impression that the Bangsamoro wanted a state entirely different from the Philippine republic.
Sen. Juan Miguel Zubiri on Friday said the subcommittee discussing the proposed law would hold hearings on Monday until Jan. 18 and that they would invite Cabinet members.
At least three other BBL versions have been crafted since the BTC submitted its version, and South Cotabato Rep. Pedro Acharon said Congress would harmonize these four versions.
Acharon, chair of House local government committee, said all four proposed bills sought to grant the envisioned Bangsamoro autonomous region increased flexibility and a wider range of authority in politics, economy and finance.
During its sixth plenary session on Jan. 8 and 9, the BTC asked Pimentel to “have someone file and sponsor the BTC-drafted BBL and to use the latter as its working document in its deliberation” at the Senate.
Ghadzali Jaafar, the BTC chair, said the separate versions that lawmakers had crafted was not acceptable as “they are not the bills crafted by the Bangsamoro Transition Commission pursuant to Executive Order No. 8 series of 2016 signed by the President on
Nov. 7, 2016.”
“What did the MILF and the government tried to solve when they agreed to negotiate in January 1997? We agreed to solve the Bangsamoro problem,” MILF chief negotiator Mohagher Iqbal said in a recent forum in Cotabato City.
He said the BTC-crafted BBL aimed to “not only promote social justice but is all about social justice, and it addresses the legitimate grievances of the Bangsamoro people committed against them by the changing regimes in Manila starting from the Americans down to the Filipino administrations.”
Iqbal described their BBL version as “a menu to correct historical injustices against the Bangsamoro that have led to the “loss of sovereignty, their homeland and development as people.”
He said the opportunity to pass the BBL was “now present” because “unity is strong” between the MILF and the Moro National Liberation Front, the other big Moro group that has reached a peace agreement with the government.
“The passage of BBL is a key to arrest the frustration of the Bangsamoro people, and likewise empowers them. They can effectively check the spread of violent radicalization in Mindanao. Bangsamoro Basic Law is an antidote to secession,” Iqbal added. —With a report from Leila Salaverria
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