Mamasapano tragedy should not prevent BBL approval and ratification

The Mamasapano tragedy should not prevent passage of the proposed Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) and its ratification by the people, said Sen. Ferdinand “Bongbong” R. Marcos, Jr., Chairman of the Committee on Local Government.

However, any version of BBL that Congress might pass must be “in the context of, and within the framework of our constitutional democracy,” Sen. Bongbong said today in his prepared speech for a symposium on BBL at the Polytechnic University of the Philippines (PUP).

Suffering from ill effects of food poisoning, the Senator was not able to attend the symposium entitled “BBL: Reflections After the Mamasapano Incident”, and instead sent his eldest son Ferdinand Alexander, to read the speech.

“Regardless of the impact of the Mamasapano incident, we still have to see BBL through Congress, until its proper and most beneficial conclusion, and ultimately, for ratification by the people,” Sen. Bongbong said.

He recalled the public alarm and outrage sparked by the death of 44 Special Action Force Commandos on January 25 when they clashed with members of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front and other armed groups after a successful a counter-terrorist mission in Mamasapano.

The tragic encounter halted Congressional deliberations on BBL to give way to separate investigations on the incident. It also eroded public trust in the MILF, the sole and exclusive partner of the Philippine Government in the peace agreement under the BBL.

The heroism of the “Fallen 44” not only brought a fugitive to justice, but also revealed the flaws in the entire peace process, as reflected in numerous agreements and mechanisms embodied in the draft BBL, according to Sen. Bongbong.

Still, he sees the BBL as an attempt to renew the government’s commitment to peace and development with the people of Muslim Mindanao by recalibrating the grant of autonomy earlier given to the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao.

The big problem, Sen. Bongbong pointed out, is that the draft BBL contains many unconstitutional provisions, as pointed by out many legal experts including Sen. Miriam Defensor-Santiago.

Likewise, he said the draft BBL grants the Bangsamoro government greater and wider powers than what the constitution allows autonomous regions to enjoy. This gives the impression that the Bangsamoro government is a separate entity from the Philippines.

“What do all these observations lead to? If Congress were to pass this exact version of the BBL as drafted by the Palace, then the resultant law would clearly and grossly violate our Constitution,” Sen. Bongbong pointed out.

He said there are two legally valid options to address BBL’s flaws: first, to amend its provisions to make it consistent with the constitution; and second, for its proponents to propose charter change that would accommodate the drastic changes BBL would put in place.

With so many problems in the draft BBL that need to be addressed, Marcos said it would not be wise to rush or railroad its passage.

Sen. Bongbong assured the PUP students that he would do his part to ensure that “the sovereignty and territorial integrity of our country are kept intact and respected by all.”

In crafting a substitute BBL, the Senator said his goal is to see “our people united by a common aspiration for genuine and lasting peace, order, justice, and development not only in Mindanao, but in our entire country.”

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