Biazon: Bangsamoro Basic Law will be watered down | Inquirer News

Biazon: Bangsamoro Basic Law will be watered down

Muntinlupa Rep. Rodolfo Biazon. FILE PHOTO

Muntinlupa Rep. Rodolfo Biazon. FILE PHOTO

Expect a tamer Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) by the time it leaves both chambers of Congress, said Muntinlupa Rep. Rodolfo Biazon, a former Armed Forces of the Philippines chief of staff.

“I assure everyone, the Bangsamoro Basic Law will be watered down,” Biazon, a member of the ad hoc committee of the House of Representatives examining the proposed law, said in a media forum in Manila on Monday.


“Because we need to satisfy two issues: One, the constitutionality issue, and two, reconciling the different interests of different groups. We need to do those. So, it will be watered down.”


Biazon gave this assessment after the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) called for the passage of a “good” BBL and urged the government to consider its options should the current peace process flounder.

As early as July last year, the MILF said on its website that it could not accept a BBL that “may be constitutional but will not solve the Bangsamoro question.”

After clashes in Mamasapano, Maguindanao province, between police commandos and Moro rebels on Jan. 25, the MILF released another statement, which said that passing the BBL “is the only option open to all of us now” and that “any hesitancy breeds more complications.”


Speaker Feliciano Belmonte Jr. said he could not guarantee that the draft BBL would be approved in the House due to fallout from the Mamasapano incident where 44 police commandos died.

“We are still trying [to pass], but it looks difficult. We hope [we can still approve]. Right now, all we can do is to wait. They suspended the hearings because they are awaiting certain reports,” said Belmonte in an interview with reporters.


Hearings suspended

The ad hoc committee on the BBL has shelved indefinitely its public hearings on the draft charter until the MILF has returned all firearms it took from the fallen members of the Special Action Force (SAF) and until all pending investigations of the Mamasapano debacle have been completed.

Last month, Belmonte was optimistic that the House would pass the BBL by March and the BBL signed by the President in December.

Following the Mamasapano incident, Belmonte said support for the BBL had been eroded.


Even before the Mamasapano clash, the BBL was far from assured of getting approved, as critics claimed that some of its provisions were unconstitutional.

Biazon said Congress could not enact a law if it did not conform to the Constitution. Supporters of the BBL, he said, should brace themselves for expected challenges to the BBL.

“That question of constitutionality will be raised in the Supreme Court. A good example is the Memorandum of Agreement on Ancestral Domain. It was signed by then President (Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo) and everyone else, until somebody ran to the Supreme Court to challenge it. And the court said it is unconstitutional. So we really have to be careful about this law,” the lawmaker said.

At the outset, Biazon said the BBL was a “fragmenting” piece of legislation, as it sought to devolve or share certain powers of the national government, including those for national security and territorial sovereignty, to a “Bangsamoro political entity.”

“There is a need for us to examine more closely the issue of territorial boundary definitions. There are many provinces not part of the current ARMM (Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao) that are vying to be part of the Bangsamoro,” he said.

“As regards the coordination provision, do the Navy and Coast Guard have to coordinate whenever they move within what is our territorial waters? If the Air Force needs to fly over the Bangsamoro, do they need to coordinate? There are so many questions.”

Biazon said the powers of constitutional bodies, such as the Commission on Elections, Commission on Audit and Civil Service Commission, could also be subjected to fragmentation.

Revenue sharing

“The sharing of revenues between the Bangsamoro and the national government is another issue. Other provinces could question why the Bangsamoro gets to keep a bigger part of their revenues,” he said.

Aside from these legal issues, Biazon said lawmakers would need to take into account the opinions of the other peoples of Mindanao.

“What can’t happen is this: We enact the law and it will spawn other problem groups. We enacted the ARMM law in 1996, but it spawned the problem of the MILF. Now we are negotiating with the MILF, we have the problem of the BIFF (Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters),” he said.

The BIFF is a breakaway group of the MILF, which in turn earlier split from the Moro National Liberation Front that signed a peace deal with the Ramos administration in 1996. That agreement led to the creation of the ARMM.


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