By Leila B. Salaverria | Inquirer.net
Changes in the draft Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) would not be arbitrary and would serve to strengthen it, according to Sen. Ferdinand Marcos Jr., who also called on the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) to be “open-minded” and “a little flexible” regarding the matter.
Marcos, who had chaired the Senate hearings on the BBL, said there were ambiguous or constitutionally infirm provisions in the measure that have to be changed. There are also areas in the bill that were “left open” for Congress to complete.
Congress must make sure any bill it approves is legal, constitutional and enforceable, he said.
“We are not out to make changes in the BBL just because we like to do so. We would be making changes, amendments, add, or delete provisions because in our view, that is the best way to make a more robust and effective law,” he said in a statement on Thursday.
“Let’s not forget that the ultimate goal of BBL is peace in Muslim Mindanao. And we will strive to pass the best BBL possible so that we would achieve a true and lasting peace in Muslim Mindanao,” he added.
The passage of the BBL, which would create a new Bangsamoro region in Mindanao, is a key component of the government’s comprehensive peace agreement with the MILF.
Congress has suspended its deliberations on the bill pending the complete investigation of the bloody police operation in Mamasapano town, Maguindanao province, to arrest a Malaysian bomb expert.
The police Special Action Force (SAF) personnel clashed with members of the MILF and the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters as they were leaving the area. A total of 44 SAF members, 18 MILF members and five civilians were killed.
Marcos said among the provisions in the draft BBL that have to be changed were those that would allow the Bangsamoro region to have its own Commission on Audit, Commission on Elections and Civil Service Commission.
These are constitutional agencies and their functions and scope could not be reduced, he said.
The Office of the Ombudsman has submitted a position paper saying the Bangsamoro could not have its own Ombudsman since the office is also a constitutional body, he pointed out.
Marcos also said he wanted a clarification on the administration of local government units that would join the Bangsamoro but were not contiguous with the region’s core territory.
The questions arising from this matter are where they would get their internal revenue allotment, and who would be their mother municipality or province. These are still up for discussion, he added.
Also needing clarification are the procedures for joining or leaving the Bangsamoro, he said.
Sen. Vicente Sotto III said the government and the MILF should continue talking, while at the same time observing the ceasefire. They should also not be pressured by deadlines, said Sotto.
“Otherwise, [the BBL] might just be declared unconstitutional,” he said in a text message, and cited a Filipino proverb about those who walk fast being prone to deep injuries.
‘Not peace of memorial park’
“This is a 400-year problem. We should not be rash,” he added.
One thing that must be considered is whether all Muslim groups are happy with the arrangement, he said.
“Are the 44 lives the last sacrifice or the first set of deaths in a new era of unnecessary deaths among brothers with different religions?” he asked.
The kind of peace that must be crafted should be one that addresses all issues and not one that just silences voices, Sotto said.
“Peace with honor and justice for living people. Not the peace of a memorial park!” he said.