Parliamentary provision in substitute Bangsamoro bill upholds spirit of peace pact with MILF

The substitute bill on the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region retained the provision on holding a parliamentary form of government in keeping with the spirit of the peace pact between the Moro Islamic Liberation Front and the Philippine government.

This was emphasized by Ferdinand “Bongbong” R. Marcos, Jr., Chairman of the Committee on Local Government, which is tasked to deliberate on the controversial Bangsamoro Basic Law. He added that in addressing the flaws of the draft BBL he tried to keep most of the concessions extended to the MILF under the peace agreement.

In a radio interview, Marcos noted that while there were clearly unconstitutional provisions in the draft BBL, legal experts were divided on the issue of the parliamentary form of government, under which the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region will be created under the proposed law.

“In their peace talk with the Philippine government, the MILF proposed that the form of government of the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region should be parliamentary and ministerial. That is why I kept the provision but we still have to discuss it thoroughly in the Senate deliberations,” Marcos said.

Likewise, Marcos said the provision is retained in his substitute bill in accordance with the principle of autonomy.

“If we say they have autonomy, we have to consider the wishes of the people of that autonomous region,” Marcos said.

However, Marcos said there is no guarantee that the Senate will retain the provision on the parliamentary form of government of the Bangsamoro government.

“We have addressed the provisions of the draft BBL that were clearly unconstitutional. But there are other provisions—like this parliamentary form of government—where opinions are divided and that the Senate has to decide on,” Marcos said.

Marcos said that while he retained the parliamentary provision in the substitute bill, he addressed the fears and suspicions of many people that the creation of the Bangsamoro autonomous region is a prelude to secession.

“That is why I made it very, very clear that the law cannot be used to separate the Bangsamoro territory away from the Philippines,” Marcos stressed.

Marcos said the parliamentary provision sparked suspicion of secession as it practically copied the government structure of Malaysia, which is the facilitator of the Philippine government-MILF peace talks.

Until now, Marcos said it remains a puzzle why the government agreed to let Malaysia to take part in the peace talks when it is not a disinterested party as it has a conflicting claim on Sabah.

“We can’t do anything about it anymore. So, what I did instead is to strengthen the provision to prevent the secession of the Bangsamoro territory from the Philippines,” he explained.

Despite giving most of the concessions to the MILF under the peace pact, Marcos said it is unlikely for the Senate and the House of Representatives to approve the draft BBL without any changes, as called for by the MILF and the government.

“We all know very well that, first the draft BBL will not pass in the House (of Representatives); second, it will not pass in the Senate. On the remote chance that it does pass Congress, I’m sure the Supreme Court will strike it down as unconstitutional,” Marcos said.

Since Monday, Marcos has been waiting for fellow senators to interpellate him on his substitute bill, the Basic Law on Bangsamoro Autonomous Region, but most of the 14 senators who reserved the right to ask questions sought more time to study the proposed law.

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