Manila Bulletin - Senate holding BBL hearings in Mindanao

News & Interviews
13 May 2015

By Mario Casayuran | Manila Bulletin

ManilaBulletinOnlineWith only 13 days of regular sessions left before adjourning sine die on June 12, the Senate Local Government Committee will hold two public hearings on the Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) in Jolo, Sulu, and Zamboanga City starting tomorrow.

“I made a promise to the people of Jolo and Zamboanga that they will have a chance to air their views on the BBL and so we set these hearings to fulfill that promise,” Sen. Ferdinand “Bongbong” R. Marcos Jr., committee chairman, said.

Marcos said his committee will also have another public hearing to get the side of the secessionist Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF), then headed by University of the Philippines (UP) Professor Nur Misuari who signed a peace accord with the Ramos administration in 1996.

“So after that, before the end of the month, we would likely complete our hearings and the committee would probably be ready by then to write the version that we will present to the rest of the senators,” Marcos explained.

The Jolo and Zamboanga hearings will be held in the same week the special committee of the House of Representatives gears up to vote on the final version of BBL it would present to the plenary.

Malacañang had expressed its desire that Congress would be able to pass the BBL before adjourning on June 12.

Public hearings on the BBL were temporarily shelved by both Houses of Congress following the January 25, 2015, Mamasapano tragedy where 44 commandos of the Philippine National Police-Special Action Force (PNP-SAF) died in a firefight with the fighters of the secessionist Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF), and private armed groups (PAGs).


This early, Marcos said the Senate is unlikely to heed Malacañang’s appeal for the passage of the BBL without any amendments.

He said that even the peace council which Malacañang constituted to review BBL pointed out the need for some changes in the BBL, which was drafted by the MILF and the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process (OPAPP).

“We will amend the power sharing, we will amend the administrative issues, we will amend the economic issues, we will certainly amend the constitutional issues,” Marcos said.

Marcos admitted that he could not commit to any deadline for the passage of the BBL in the Senate.

He said many of his fellow senators had earlier signified their intention to propose their own amendments to the draft BBL, which would likely result in lengthy floor debates.

“If we manage to pass it by June 10, then well and good. But what is more important is that we pass a version of the BBL that we believe will really work to achieve its avowed goal, and that is to bring peace and prosperity to Muslim Mindanao,” Marcos stressed.

The Marcos committee heads two other committees tasked by Senate President Franklin M. Drilon to fine-tune the BBL.

The two panels are the Senate Peace, Unification, and Reconciliation Committee chaired by Sen. Teofisto Guingona III and the Senate Constitutional Amendments Committee chaired by Sen. Miriam Defensor Santiago.


After conducting a hearing on the BBL, where the country’s legal luminaries attended, Santiago declared that she found that most of the provisions in the BBL are unconstitutional.

The Santiago committee has yet to submit its findings and recommendations to the Marcos mother committee

At the House of Representatives, the majority coalition solidly favors the passage of the proposed BBL, Speaker Feliciano Belmonte Jr. told reporters yesterday.

Belmonte gave the assessment after having a meeting with fellow House leaders on Monday night wherein they primarily tackled the contentious measure, which seeks the establishment of the Bangsamoro substate in Mindanao.

The meeting took place just hours after the BBL was peppered with suggested amendments from members of the Ad Hoc Committee.

But the House independent bloc expressed strong belief that the deferment of ad hoc panel voting on the peace measure was due to lack of lawmakers’ strong support for the controversial bill.

Leyte Rep. Ferdinand Martin Romualdez, who heads the group, claimed that the ad hoc panel, chaired by Cagayan de Oro Rep. Rufus Rodriguez, had failed to muster substantial support for the BBL.

“This development indicates that the House majority has no solid number to pass the BBL because even their allies believe that Congress should not hurry the approval of a very vital and important measure,” he said.

However, Belmonte said it was during the meeting that House members decided to postpone the section by section voting on the BBL from this week to May 18 to 20.


Belmonte, in the Ugnayan sa Batasan news forum Tuesday, dispelled notions that the reason behind the deferment was the House leadership’s skepticism that it could actually pass the BBL at the committee level.

“I’m reasonably certain that we have the number [of votes], but more than that mahirap yung magulo (we don’t want things to be disorderly).

When asked to specify the number of pro-BBL votes that they think they have, Belmonte reminded reporters that 270 out of the 290 congressmen in the Chamber belong to the majority bloc.


He said the week-long postponement would give the ad hoc panel members time to go over the proposed changes to the BBL before the actual voting, which begins Monday.

“Because there have been extensive consultations on the bill as presented, there were so much comments there and recommended amendments that were never resolved. They were just compiled.

“We thought it would be better to have an actual draft as preliminarily amended. And Rufus actually made a draft and I said let’s use that draft of yours as a working draft. Copies of it will be distributed to all members today (Tuesday),” Belmonte said.

The Rodriguez document, which reportedly contains all of the lawmakers’ amendments, will serve as the working draft for the voting.


Meanwhile, the MILF asked Marcos to atone for the sins of his father to the Philippines, including the massacre of Moros.

An Editorial on took issue with the senator’s seemingly taking time to finish the Senate hearings on the proposed BBL.

The young Marcos “should atone for the various sins of his father to this country, including the massacres of thousands of Moros in Mindanao,” the Muslim rebel group said.

It cited such wholesale killings of thousands of Moros such as the Malisbong Massacre in Palembang, Sultan Kudarat; the Pata Island Massacre in Sulu with 2,000 victims; the Patikul Massacre in Sulu, too, where 700 were killed, and many others.

Marcos can make up for his father’s deeds “by supporting the passage of a good BBL in the Senate.”

The MILF said it sees the good and the bad things the late strongman Marcos did for the country. “We know that the sin of one is not the sin of another,” it added. (With reports from Ellson A. Quismorio, Charissa M. Luci, and Edd K. Usman)