‘Dramatic’ changes to BBL eyed
The House ad hoc committee on the Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) has proposed dramatic changes to the measure, including renaming the new entity the “Bangsamoro Autonomous Region” and deleting the “opt-in” provision allowing contiguous areas to join the territory through a plebiscite.
The BBL version of the House of Representatives was released by committee chair Cagayan de Oro Rep. Rufus Rodriguez on Wednesday night and it reflected most of the amendments the panel wanted to the draft law.
In a forum on Thursday, Rodriguez clarified that it was only a “chairman’s working draft” and the final version would be put to a vote next week.
The 75-member ad hoc panel is set to begin voting on the BBL on Monday.
Last Wednesday, Speaker Feliciano Belmonte Jr. expressed optimism that in spite of delays the House would pass the measure before Congress adjourns next month.
Asked how the new entity would be different from the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao it would replace, Rodriguez said it would be “very much different.”
“We have given increased powers to the Bangsamoro. From the 58 exclusive powers, we reduced them to 53, but this is still much more than only the 12 stated in the Constitution. We also gave them 24 concurrent [or shared] powers.
“We’re giving them more funds through an annual block grant, other sources of revenue and the right to raise revenue. They are receiving more in powers and more in funding,” he added.
The proposed amendments in the chair’s draft range from simple changes to wording or phrasing—such as from “central government” to “national government”—to major ones—such as the deletion or addition of entire provisions and sections.
For instance, the House draft strips the Bangsamoro government of authority over land registration, regulation of power generation, transmission and distribution, as well as the right to establish new laws and institutions.
It clarifies the “asymmetric relationship” between the national government and the Bangsamoro based on the definition of “autonomous regions” in the Constitution.
If approved as is, the title of the bill will be changed from Bangsamoro Basic Law to Basic Law on the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region.
“We want to make clear it’s not a substate and to make it clear it’s an autonomous region, which the Constitution provides for,” Rodriguez said.
A provision containing a verse from the Koran has been deleted, as “we cannot have a Koranic verse in a secular law,” he said.
Function of state
Another provision stating that the Bangsamoro must adhere to international treaties and agreements was also removed, as “that is a function of a sovereign state,” Rodriguez said.
The committee also wants the national government to retain exclusive and reserved powers over energy, national and local elections, auditing, civil service, human rights and the Ombudsman. They propose erasing all the provisions that create local versions of national agencies.
In another significant change, the committee draft proposes the creation of a “Presidential Office for the Bangsamoro” to be headed by an official with Cabinet rank.
The draft also removes six sections on the appointment of a titular head of the Bangsamoro called wali, who, in the original bill, will take on ceremonial functions for a term of six years. Rodriguez said only states had ceremonial heads.
The House version would also subject final and executory decisions of the Bangsamoro Shariah High Court to judicial review by the Supreme Court.
The panel deleted more than it added to the draft.
Some provisions added included strengthening the madrasah educational system, and allocating two reserved seats for youth representatives to the Bangsamoro parliament, aside from women and indigenous peoples.
The panel draft also removed the section establishing coordination protocols to govern the movements of the military, as well as a provision on the possible creation of a Bangsamoro command in the Armed Forces of the Philippines.
At the forum, Rodriguez said he believed the draft had a strong likelihood of winning the committee’s approval.
“In fact, more than 20 congressmen are really only against the opt-in provision, because these are the congressmen of the adjacent areas, because their territories will be diminished,” he said, referring to the provision allowing contiguous areas to join the Bangsamoro through a plebiscite petitioned for by 10 percent of a barangay.
Rodriguez proposed deleting the provision entirely, but panel members suggested limiting the option to within five years of the passage of the bill.
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