President sees legal barriers to draft BBL
It looks like the proposed Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) is going back to the drawing board.
Speaking in Malacañang on Tuesday after signing the 2018 national budget and the tax reform law, President Duterte cast doubt on the draft BBL, saying he did not think it could withstand a constitutional challenge.
Mr. Duterte then asked Congress for help in looking for ways to give the Moro people their own homeland in Mindanao.
He also pushed for talks with the “well-meaning moderate” factions of the Moro rebels in Mindanao, such as the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) and the Moro National Liberation Front.
Mr. Duterte disclosed that MILF chief Murad Ebrahim had been regularly seeing him to talk about the progress of the draft BBL, which would give flesh to the Aquino administration’s peace agreement with the MILF that included the creation of a new entity that would replace the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao.
Help from Congress
“I do not think that it will hurdle … the constitutional barriers,” he said.
“But if we can’t give it to them, kindly help me think of ways how to do it,” he added, addressing the lawmakers in the room.
Mr. Duterte warned of a return to violence in Mindanao if the proposed Bangsamoro plan fell through.
Resumption of war in Mindanao, he said, could draw other groups on the island to the fighting.
Mr. Duterte said the government could ill-afford to fight on multiple fronts, especially with escalating hostilities with the communist insurgents.
In August, Malacañang transmitted to Congress the draft BBL prepared by the Bangsamoro Transition Commission (BTC).
Mr. Duterte urged Congress to pass the measure, warning of trouble in Mindanao if the proposal failed to win the lawmakers’ approval.
But questions had arisen about the BTC draft, with a lawmaker earlier noting that it retained some of the questionable provisions found in the previous version of the bill that failed to clear Congress during the Aquino administration.
Senate President Aquilino Pimentel III on Wednesday said the draft BBL might indeed contain unconstitutional provisions, and asked Malacañang to point these out.
Pimentel spoke as a Senate subcommittee led by Sen. Juan Miguel Zubiri started to deliberate on the proposed BBL. Zubiri said his group wanted the proposal passed into law by March.
The new draft of the proposal was presented by the BTC for the first time at a hearing called by Zubiri’s panel.
Speaking to reporters after the hearing, Pimentel said the draft contained provisions that might raise constitutional questions.
He noted that one of the resource persons at the hearing questioned the proposal to “adopt a parliamentary form of government within a local government while in the national level we have a presidential form of government.”
Pimentel was referring to the BBL provision for a Bangsamoro parliamentary government.
“So that’s a constitutional question, that’s right,” Pimentel said, adding that the question was whether this was “creating a substate within the State.”
Another provision that may be questionable, he said, is the designation of a wali who will serve as ceremonial head of the proposed Bangsamoro government.
Among the duties of the proposed wali are administering the oath of office to all members of the proposed Bangsamoro parliament, including the chief minister.
Such provisions must be reviewed carefully, Pimentel said.
Zubiri said his subcommittee would hold hearings on Jan. 15 and 18 with Cabinet members as resource persons.
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