InterAksyon – Marcos mulls over amending ARMM law as substitute for Palace-drafted BBL

By Ernie Reyes | InterAksyon

InterAksyon_featured_imageMANILA – Simply amending the Organic Act for the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) could be an option in crafting a substitute bill to the controversial draft of the Bangsamoro Basic Law, Senator Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr. said on Monday.

“I think there are systemic weaknesses in the ARMM system. So what do we do? We fix it. There’s no need to throw out the baby with the bath water, as they say. We look at the system, see where the failings are, the weaknesses are, and fix those,” said Marcos, chairman of the Senate committee on local government.

“We have already amended the Organic Law for ARMM once. That was a step in the right direction. So let’s make more steps in the right direction,” he added.

Earlier, Marcos said in a privilege speech that he could not support the draft BBL as its flaws could only lead the country to perdition.  Marcos said he will prepare a substitute bill that addresses the concern not only of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front but also those of the other major stakeholders.

Amending the ARMM law, Marcos added, will address one of the constitutional problems of creating a new autonomous region in Muslim Mindanao – something that some legal experts said is not allowed.

“And so a solution around that will be to say this is merely an amendment of the existing law. That dispenses with that argument questioning the constitutionality of the law,” Marcos said.

Marcos said that after the last BBL hearing of his panel on June 9, he will start writing the substitute bill when Congress adjourns sine die on June 11. Once the substitute bill is completed, Marcos said he will furnish all committee members with copies so they can study his proposals before the resumption of session.

As a matter of procedure in crafting the substitute bill, Marcos said he will start from the draft BBL and address first the constitutional issues to remedy them.

The next step, according to the senator, is to tackle the administrative issues and the political issues, specifically the matter of power-sharing between the national government and the Bangsamoro regional government.

Marcos said he will also address the economic issues, including the controversial provisions on taxation and share in the national wealth.

Justify Bangsamoro, other LGUs’ gap in taxes

“It has to be shown what justifies the differences in the share in national wealth and the share in taxes between our local government units and the Bangsamoro government,” Marcos said.

“We need to show what justifies the huge difference in the share of taxes and in revenues from exploration of natural resources between regular local government units and the Bangsamoro government,” Marcos said.

Marcos noted that under the draft BBL, the Bangsamoro government will retain 100 percent of taxes collected within their jurisdiction. In contrast, other LGUs remit to the  national government all internal revenue taxes collected in their area; and the national government returns to them their share in the form of IRA (Internal Revenue Allotment). Under the setup, they get a 40-percent share, while the national government gets 60 percent.

In the case of revenue from the exploration of natural wealth in their respective jurisdictions, all other LGUs get a 40-percent share and the NG gets 60 percent; but in the case of the Bangsamoro, it gets a whopping 75 percent, with the NG getting only 25 percent.

Marcos said he will try to address in the substitute bill the issues raised against the draft BBL to ensure the version he presents to the plenary would stand the test of constitutionality, address the concern of major stakeholders, and be practical enough to work towards the goal of achieving a lasting peace in Muslim Mindanao.

“We are creating an entirely unique form of local government which we never conceived of before. And so that is why we have to be very very careful in what we are doing because we might cause more problems than we are trying to solve,” Marcos said.

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