Inquirer.net – Marcos eyes amending ARMM law to replace ‘flawed’ BBL draft

By Niño Jesus Orbeta | INQUIRER.net

Logo_Inquirer.netSENATOR Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr. said one option he is considering in crafting a substitute bill to the “flaw-ridden” draft of the Bangsamoro Basic Law is to simply amend the organic act for the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM).

“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,” Marcos, chairman of the Senate committee on local government, said in a statement on Monday.

“We have amended already 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 said.

In a privilege speech last week, Marcos said he could not support the draft BBL as its flaws could only lead the country to perdition. Instead, he said, he would prepare a substitute bill that would address the concern not only of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front but also those of the other major stakeholders.

He said amending the ARMM law would address one of the constitutional problems of creating a new autonomous region in Muslim Mindanao 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,” he pointed out.

Marcos said he would start writing the substitute bill after the committee’s last hearing on the BBL on Tuesday, a day before Congress adjourns sine die. And upon completion, he said he would provide all committee members a copy of the substitute bill so they could study his proposals even before the resumption of session on July 27.

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

He would then tackle the administrative issues and the political issues, specifically the matter of power sharing between the national government and the Bangsamoro regional government and then address the economic issues, including the controversial provisions on taxation and share in the national wealth.

“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,” he further said.

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

In the case of national wealth taxes, local government share is 40 percent but Bangsamoro will get 75 percent.

Marcos said he would try to address in the substitute bill the various issues raised against the draft BBL to ensure the version he would present to the plenary would not only stand the test of constitutionality, address the concern of major stakeholders, and 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,” he said.

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