Fourteen senators have signed up to ask questions about the substitute to the Palace-drafted Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL), Senator Ferdinand Marcos Jr. said Sunday.
Marcos, the sponsor of the bill, told radio dzBB, said he expected most senators to interpellate him, and added that if there were major defects in his draft, there was still time to introduce changes to the bill.
As chairman of the Senate committee on local government, Marcos led the review of the Palace-backed BBL and found parts of it unconstitutional. He has sponsored a substitute bill instead that he said corrected those defects and that is more inclusive than the measure hammered out by government peace negotiators and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF).
Marcos said his substitute bill was drafted after consultations with all the stakeholders in Mindanao and would protect the country’s interest and sovereignty while promoting the interests and aspirations of the Bangsamoro people.
“If you look at [government-initiated peace] process, the negotiations were only between the Office of the Presidential Adviser on Peace Process (OPAPP) and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front,” he said.
Marcos said he was ready to thoroughly explain the changes in the BBL during the period of interpellation.
“If there are big mistakes in the substitute bill, there is still time to change and talk about it,” he said.
Earlier, Marcos told vice governors from Mindanao that his substitute was beneficial and fair to all, Muslims and non-Muslims alike.
He said drafting the substitute bill was “the right thing to do.”
“I believe we tried very hard to be fair to everyone concerned,” Marcos said in a statement Sunday.
Marcos said his bill treats the proposed Bangsamoro government in the same way other local governments are treated to draw them closer to the mainstream.
This principle guided the bill’s provision on Lake Lanao, which critics have described as “anti-Moro.”
“What is different in our substitute bill is we just considered what was described either as inland waters or Bangsamoro waters to adhere to the definition of municipal waters. I don’t see why we need to change it,” Marcos said.
Under the Local Government Code, “municipal waters” includes streams, lakes, and tidal waters within the municipality that are not the subject of private ownership and are not within national parks, public forests, timber lands, forest reserves or fishery reserves.
He added that his bill ensured that the power plants generating electricity from the waters of Lake Lanao, as well as the transmission facilities connected to the national grid, remained under the supervision of the National Power Corp.
“Lake Lanao is critical as it supplies 60 percent of all the power in Mindanao. We all know that we are in crisis when it comes to power generation in Mindanao,” Marcos said. Rotating brownouts lasting from four to eight hours frequently occur in many areas in Mindanao.
During the Senate hearings on the bill, the Mindanao Development Authority took the position that Lake Lanao should be excluded from the Bangsamoro territory, and should be maintained under the exclusive control of the national government for the communal use and benefit of the entire Mindanao.
Marcos said that while he tried his best to correct the flaws of the draft BBL in the substitute bill, it could be further improved with additional inputs from his fellow senators during the period of amendment and in the bicameral conference committee, after both chambers of Congress have passed their own version of the measure.
In the House, Cagayan de Oro Rep. Rufus Rodriguez rejected 28 provisions that the MILF wanted reinstated in the House version of the BBL.
Rodriguez also warned during an interview on radio dzBB that if the MILF insisted on reinstating the “28 killer provisions,” most lawmakers would junk the BBL altogether.
“The message is clear to them. Take it or leave it,” Rodriguez said.
Rodriguez, chairman of the House ad hoc committee on the BBL, said the reason the bill passed 50-17-1 at the committee level was that some 50 provisions, including 28 MILF-backed provisions, had been deleted for being unconstitutional.
He said bringing those provisions back would antagonize the 50 lawmakers who voted for the bill at the committee level and could cause them to lose interest in supporting the bill in plenary.
The Palace on Sunday said the Philippines will not give up its claim on Sabah, and that there were no preconditions to Malaysia’s participation in the peace process.
“The Philippine government appreciates the support of Malaysia in promoting and facilitating the progress of the peace process, which is founded upon the long term friendship and cooperation between two ASEAN member countries, and is without preconditions nor strings attached,” said Communications Secretary Herminio Coloma Jr., in a text message to The Standard.
Marcos said earlier he will push for the inclusion of a provision in the proposed BBL stating that the Philippines will not drop its claim on Sabah as a consequence of Malaysia’s role in the Mindanao peace talks.
Coloma said MILF chief negotiator Mohagher Iqbal’s complaints about the revised version of the BBL released by Marcos were premature.
Iqbal made his complaints after over 100 provisions were allegedly removed from the original version of the BBL, including the preamble, which he likened to removing a person’s soul.
Coloma, however, said it will be prudent to wait until the BBL has been discussed in the plenary.