What worries Sen. Pimentel most on Bangsamoro autonomy?
MANILA, Philippines — As Congress awaits the draft Bangsamoro basic law, Sen. Aquilino Pimentel III has advised the government to explain how the future region’s asymmetrical relationship with the national government complies with the Constitution.
Peace negotiators of the Aquino administration have said that the future Bangsamoro region will exercise powers over its political and economic affairs, and enforce security within its territory, but remains under the Republic of the Philippines.
It will have “asymmetrical relations’’ with the national government, similar to Hong Kong’s relations with China.
“The challenge to them is how do you grant the asymmetric relations which looks like federalism, without changing the Constitution?’’ Pimentel, chair of the justice committee, said by phone.
“Can you accommodate it under the Constitution? If the answer is yes, how do you execute it?’’ he added. “How will the law be crafted in such a way that it will not be unconstitutional?’’
Local government units have a symmetric relationship with the national government in the sense that they are governed by the Local Government Code. The future Bangsamoro region would be a “special region’’ with more powers, the senator explained.
In its own primer on the peace agreement, the Office of the President explains that an asymmetrical relationship places a special status on the Bangsamoro vis a vis the central government.
The autonomous regions for Muslim Mindanao and the Cordillera contemplated in the Constitution “partake” of this special and distinct status and can thus be described as asymmetrical, according to the OP
After concluding fresh talks to craft a mutually acceptable draft BBL, negotiators were scheduled to submit a draft bill to President Aquino Monday (Aug. 18). The President will in turn transmit the bill to Congress.
Given the delay in its submission to Congress, Senate President Franklin Drilon has assured the Aquino administration that the bill will be approved by Congress in the first quarter of 2015.
This will still fall within the government’s time-frame of setting up a Bangsamoro juridical entity by June 2016 when Mr. Aquino steps down.
The draft BBL seeks to carve a new, autonomous Bangsamoro region replacing the current Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao.
Government chief negotiator Miriam Coronel-Ferrer said the touchy issues in the draft BBL were on the structure of government and the annexes on power-sharing and wealth-sharing.
Pimentel acknowledged that the Constitution has provided for the creation of two special regions in Muslim Mindanao and in the Cordilleras.
“We should now study the Constitution if it provides us with that flexibility [for asymmetric relationship]. But there’s a hint that it does,’’ he said, referring to the provisions on the autonomous regions.