philstar – 17 senators sign Bangsamoro Bill substitute bill

By Christina Mendez | philstar

philstar-new-logoSenate committee on local government chairman Ferdinand Marcos Jr. and 16 other senators signed yesterday the 100-page committee report on the substitute Bangsamoro Bill following a caucus.

Their action will now open debates on the bill before the plenary.

A majority of those who signed the report have expressed intent to propose amendments during plenary debates, Marcos said after the caucus.

“If the amendments are really good, then we can adopt them,” he said.

He and Senate President Franklin Drilon had to convince their colleagues to sign the report to enable it to move before the plenary, he added.

About 80 percent of the original Bangsamoro bill was “touched,” but its “original intent” was “very much preserved,” Marcos said.

“In fulfillment of my promise and in compliance with our agreement during the caucus last week, I filed today the substitute bill which I firmly believe will establish a strong mechanism for peace in Mindanao,” he said.

He is ready to sponsor the bill on Wednesday and other senators have been asked to submit their proposed amendments on his committee report, he added.

Marcos has vowed to answer questions to be raised by his colleagues in the subsequent interpellation period.

Marcos described the bill as all-inclusive since it carried the applicable advocacies, positions and proposals of all concerned.

The Senate committee on local government defined the asymmetric relationship between the national government and the envisioned Bangsamoro regional government to avoid any constitutional question.

“This is a recognition of the Bangsamoro diverse culture, and identity, and their aspiration for self-governance that makes it distinct from other regions and other local governments,” read Section 23 of the Basic Law for the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region (BAR).

The asymmetric relationship is provided under Article X Section 15 of the Constitution, where the autonomous region is granted more powers and with less intervention from the national government as compared to other territorial and political subdivisions.

“Within its territorial geographical area and subject to the provisions of the 1987 Philippine Constitution and national laws, the Bangsamoro regional government in the exercise of its right to self-governance is free to pursue its economic, social and cultural development,” read Article IV Section 12 on the General Principles and Policies of BAR.

Other senators who signed the committee report were Teofisto Guingona III, Aquilino Pimentel III, Antonio Trillanes IV, Pia Cayetano, Paolo Benigno Aquino IV, Manuel Lapid, Loren Legarda, Juan Edgardo Angara, Cynthia Villar, Nancy Binay, Gregorio Honasan, Grace Poe, Joseph Victor Ejercito and Ralph Recto.

They indicated that they will interpellate or amend the committee report.

“I signed to allow this bill to go to plenary. This is not a yes to the BBL,” Poe said in explaining her signature.

Sotto also signed “with reservation and amendments” and expressed agreement to the new title.

Sen. Alan Cayetano said he was against the bill but he also signed the committee report.

“I vote No,” he said.

“Yes to strengthening the autonomous region that will result in a just, inclusive, lasting peace. To BBL in present form. This version has addressed many (majority of objections, provisions). But many more have to addressed/amended.”

Cayetano cited as an example the “block grant” provision, which should not be included because it would give leaders of the envisioned Bangsamoro region a wide latitude to use the funds allocated to them.

“If they want schools, if they want hospitals, then let’s give them that,” he told reporters after yesterday’s plenary session.

“But why are they asking for all the money. What if they end up purchasing guns and other arms?”

Cayetano said the members of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) cannot just be designated as leaders of the new region because they must be elected in the spirit of democracy.

As an example, he cited the case of Sen. Cynthia Villar who wrote, “I signed to allow this bill to go to plenary. This is not a yes to the bill.”

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