Press conference: Davao
Sen. Bongbong: The part of the substitute bill that I have been preparing on the BBL which we will send to the plenary. So the process will be used. It’s not an campaign advertisement it’s actually a report because I have been hearing many reports about what’s going on in the Senate. Kung minsan mali naman yung mga report kaya tiniyak na. Kaya alam nila, alam ng tao kung anong nangyayari, alam nila kung ano ang aking ginagawa at alam nila kung ano ang aking posisyon. I have been asked on why I’ve been… commercial. and that’s the reason why. That is just to inform you on what we are doing now and that is the schedule that I am taking now, stands in the BBL, at least in the Senate. The House of Representatives has already prepared an interpolation so we will continue that when we return. As I’ve said, we finished the process of hearings and the committee report will soon be completed and we decided and we will start to talk about the substitute bill and the amendments that we are going to propose.
Interviewer: Good afternoon po. I understand that you prepared a substitute bill before the SONA. Do you have an idea if you’re going to be denied or …?
Sen. Bongbong:We haven’t started it yet. We are working on the committee report right now. Put it this way: I have set myself a deadline that I will finish the substitute bill before we return after the SONA so I’m not sure when in July it will be but I’m sure that we’ll be finished making it by the time the Senators come back from the recess.
Interviewer:Well you said in your privilege speech that BBL is… That you will prepare a substitute bill… What are your visions about the autonomy of Bangsamoro, as well as be faithful to the constitution and peace agreements.
Sen. Bongbong: That’s a big question. We have many things to do. I think the subject on autonomy is no longer an issue. I am focusing on four areas. And they are constitutionality, power sharing with the National Government, Economic Provisions, and Administration. Because I think the constitutional questions I think you are all familiar with now. There are several grounds that have been found to be unconstitutional so that is something that we need to look out to. I will… all the revisions that we make on the constitutionality issues in the BBL, all the report of Senator Miriam Santiago that she made, that she gave to me from her committee – committee on constitutional amendments and provision of laws. So that’s the constitutional side that’s going to be the basis. In the terms of the Economic Provisions, that is why I held a meeting with the peace… earlier here. Because we are trying to assess of what will be the effect on some of the proposed provisions of the BBL to not only the Bangsamoro area but also to the surrounding provinces and Local Government Units and that’s what I’ve been trying to determine. The Economic Decisions are important because we cannot succeed if the economic activity within and around Bangsamoro does not… So we don’t want to cause any problems for those who are running business and we want to encourage more economic activity in this area. Now, the power sharing between the Bangsamoro government and the National government. This is particularly important because we are talking about the Bangsamoro police, we are talking about the Bangsamoro armed forces, we are talking about the constitutional bodies that they intend to establish, these are things that again, we have to determine. Because although we always hear the word asymmetric, the relationship is asymmetric, it turns out that the asymmetry… and I always think about the word, it always came out. All LGUs are asymmetric to the National Government but that does help us very much. It turns out that the Bangsamoro is asymmetric to all other LGUs in other words, they are different. What does different means is we still have to determine because it hasn’t really been clarified in the Bangsamoro Basic Law. It was hardly even mentioned. So that is something that we need to make very, very clear otherwise, it will just be confusing. The economic provisions has something to do with banking, with provisions, what exactly the fiscal policy will be by the Bangsamoro government. So these are the general subjects. Each of these subjects have many issues that need to be clarified. So that’s the general approach that I can do.
Interviewer: Do you see any possibility… what I’m trying to say is that we have a Tripoli agreement from the administration of your father. Do you see any closure to today’s problem already?
Sen. Bongbong:Despite many of the pronouncements being made by certain quarters that the Bangsamoro will finally bring peace, I disagree. I think Bangsamoro government is only one piece of the solution, one part of the solution. There are many other things that need to be done. We have to look at not only the political solution but also the economic solutions, the relationships between the Bangsamoro with the rest of the country. The Tripoli agreement was succeeding. We… with the MNLF. But in the 1986, it was ignored that some of the agreements that were finalized in the Tripoli agreement were not implemented so… The problem was revisited in the 1996 Jakarta agreement and that brought peace with the MNLF. Now, we’re talking to the MILF. So hopefully, since they are the major armed group now that is still fighting the government, that will go a long way into bringing us to at least more peace, if not the complete and total peace because there are many more armed groups around. At least with the MILF, we will have some relief from the fighting that has been going on for the past few years. That is the hope. But we have to make sure that the BBL is in such a shape that will be relevant to bringing that peace. As I said, if we give it as it is now, I don’t believe that it will bring peace – the version that has been given us. And that’s my opinion. But if we can amend it and fix it so that it addresses the real problems, most fairly, then it will be an important part of that effort to continue the peace process.
Interviewer: Sir can you expound on your statement about the Tripoli agreement process.
Sen. Bongbong: Because the fighting was reduced because we have established the two Autonomous Regions and the MNLF have come to the people and these are the agreements that we arrived most under the offices of the DOIC and the offices of the head of state of Libya. It wasn’t finished but we had… of peace, we have a structure that could have brought us peace but again as I’ve said, it was ignored on the… of the 1986. And that’s why I think the fighting continued.
Interviewer: … armed groups that they have talked to th… Usually they contact the MILF but now… May nakikita kayong pattern.
Sen. Bongbong: That is why I criticized the exclusive nature of the negotiations between the OPAC and the MILF. That is why I do not believe that just the BBL will already bring us peace because clearly, even if we have a good agreement with the MILF and that both sides are implementing and respecting, there are still other armed groups and there are other stakeholders who still have to be dealt with. And one of them is the MNLF. This is not something that I am guessing up or predicting. It has already happened. And that is why we try, during the last few hearings, we try to make the process much more inclusive because many sectors have complains that they were not consulted during the negotiations. They were only informed after the… So hopefully, the last five or six hearings that we conducted were specifically designed to allow those stakeholders who did not get a chance to make their issues heard or to serve a chance to talk and to tell us what they think. And hopefully, this more inclusive process will take into account their concerns and address those concerns that will bring us to better and more complete and more inclusive compromise so all the stakeholders that could possibly feel left out are now part of the process and part of the partnership for peace.
Interviewer: What is your time frame after this kasi sabi ni PNoy… tapusin na yung BBL.
Sen. Bongbong: I mentioned earlier that we had finished our hearing process and I’m now going to write the committee report. I should be finished before the end of the recess. And at that time, we will come back for the sessions and we will go through whatever proposed amendments there will be. As I’ve said, I’m going to make a substitute bill and we will go through that, we will go through the original BBL and make whatever changes we agree upon with the rest of the committee. And then at this point… to the committee level and I cannot say how long will it take because it is impossible to predict how long the discussion will be. It is a very important discussion… with each word, with each provision, it have a very big effect. So they are all important and we cannot just summarily say that “Okay na yan” and leave it alone. We have to look at it and I don’t know how long will it take. But once it is passed in the committee or in the plenary, again, it’s hard to predict how long these debates will take. I know that many of the senators have long list of questions that they will be asking so you just have to go through the process and see how well… The (…) I don’t know what happened to the… then we will go to the committee. Because there will be conflicting provisions between the House version and the senate version. And that again, I don’t know how long it will take. By which time, we have a final version which will be sent to the panels which will. I can only tell you the sequence, I can’t tell you the dates. Kasi minsan magugulat ka, yung expected na mahaba, mabilis pala and vice versa – yung expected na mabilis eh mahaba. So it’s hard to predict.
Interviewer: Ibig sabihin sir, during the last SONA of the president, hindi natin mapredict na matapos itong law.
Sen. Bongbong: Between now… We can’t have hearings. Tapos na yung hearing process eh. Nasa interpolation na siya. We cannot interpolate in the house. Eh kami hindi pa kami nag start. So malayo pa.
Interviewer: Sir sabi niyo hindi niyo pa napapasa yung draft BBL resolution. So as compared to…
Sen. Bongbong: Wala pa. There is no draft yet. Mahaba habang usapan yan. We’ll have to take the rest of the day to explain to you all of what we see as problems of the draft of the original BBL version. There are areas that we haven’t really decided. We have to determine amongst ourselves, amongst the members of the committee if we agree for example, there are areas in constitutionality; if we agree that these particular provisions… If we agree that this is unconstitutional, then we also have to agree on what the remedy will be. So that’s only in the constitutional side. As I mentioned earlier, there are like four main subjects. All of which are quite lengthy.
Interviewer: Ako sir. Ipina-question, very significant na BBL.
Sen. Bongbong: As I’ve said, I don’t want to give incomplete version but if you have specific area that you want to talk about…
Interviewer: The law enforcements.
Sen. Bongbong: The Bangsamoro police. That’s probably one of the areas that have been discussed at length. What I’m going to propose is essentially to put the Bangsamoro police more in line with the police. Ang description ng isang regional director ng PNP, sabi niya “Bakit di na lang natin provide an enhanced regional office?” Meron tayong regional office ng PNP pero medyo malayo yung iba ang Bangsamoro. That’s why we can enhance the regional office. But what will be made very, very clear is that they are the under-command of the command structure of the Philippine National Police and they take orders from the headquarters of Krame. Yun ang malaking bagay na that really needs to be clarified.
Interviewer: Ano po ang… nabasa ko po ito sa newspaper na you are planning to just expand the ARMM law rather than pass upon the BBL.
Sen. Bongbong: Well it is just a suggestion that’s been made not only by me but also from the other Senators. Because for example, one of the arguments about the constitutionality is we are not, in fact, allowed to create another Autonomous Region which is what we will be doing if we passed the BBL in its present version. If you remember, naging dahilan na binibigay eh dahil nga daw ARMM is a failed experiment. Sa aking pananaw, that’s not true and that’s wrong. I think ARMM is an ongoing experiment that we need to continuously improve. We amended the law once so there’s no reason why we shouldn’t amend it again. Secondly, that will also answer the constitutional problem that will the constitutional problem. So that is one of the suggestions. Now, whether or not… we will amend it or not, will depend on the discussion that we have with the other Senators. I would just like to remind everyone, that none of these things will happen by itself. I cannot amend anything by myself. I need to have the approval of at least the majority of my committees. And eventually, also the agreement of the. So I have some ideas, other senators have ideas, if we agree; fine then we will approve it. But if not, we should fine a way. So that is the reason why the proposal came up and that is something that we will study very well. Unfortunately, in less than 24 hours after I mentioned our amendment as an alternative, Chairman Iqbal made the declaration that it is unacceptable with the MILF. And that is a political problem because MNLF, and they want their own. The MI wants their own. ARMM is the product of the negotiations of our government and the MN. The Bangsamoro government was the product of the discussions between the government and the MI. Kaya’t may conflict.
Interviewer: Considering the current dynamics, kelan kayo makakapag gawa ng report – committee report?
Sen. Bongbong: Yung report madali lang. Madali lang yung report sandali lang yan. Kasi ang report parang kinwento mo lang kung ano ang nangyari sa inyo. But the list of amendments that will form the center piece of the substitute bill, yun ang medyo matagal tagal. So again, the committee report, we’ll be able to finish very quickly. It will take in less than two weeks.
Interviewer: Is there anything at all in the original BBL that the senator will retain in the substitute bill? Or are you saying that working in it, will lead us to a tradition.
Sen. Bongbong: Again, I don’t know what we pull our wonder about that statement. in Zamboanga. Because of the BBL, nakahilera ang Zamboanga na yung MNLF. It’s not a guess, it happened already. And the reason is, not because of specific provisions but with the nature in which the process was undertaken. The nature of the process was very exclusive. The government negotiating panel talked only to the MILF. No other stakeholders, no other local governments, no sultanates, no Christian communities, no IPs, walang ibang kausap kundi MILF. That is why, we have these findings because hindi pa napag usapan at iba ang lumalabas. Kaya nga binibigyan ng pagkakataon ang ibang na hindi nabigyan ng konsulta… eh binibigyan natin sila ng karapatan para makapag salita sila at pag salita nila sa mga hearing namin, eh marami silang nailabas na issue. At yan, babalikan ngayon natin yan. That is why I’m saying that the substitute bill… the substitute bill as the definition of it, is a bill that contains proposals that were not contained in the original bill. Kahit isa lang, and we will have proposals that were not put into the original bill that is why it’s called a substitute bill. But, when you write a substitute bill, habang sinusulat… nandito yung draft BBL. We’ll go down line by line with the draft BBL. And I’m sure, again I cannot predict so this is again have to be agreed upon. I cannot predict what will be agreed upon, what will not be agreed upon. But I’m sure that large parts of the BBL are included in the substitute bill. I want to people from the idea that we are throwing the draft BBL away. We’re the contrary. We are busy on the draft BBL.
Interviewer: Curious lang po ako. Sa Tuesday may malaking event for decommissioning, may for the lawmakers to witness the symbolic Pupunta po ba kayo doon?
Sen. Bongbong: Well, I don’t know what we will do there. We haven’t really decided and we haven’t talked about it. But it is still a very small step because iilan lang ang na decommission eh libo libo ang fighter ng MILF. So that is one of the issues that came up on our last hearing. That if we have to do something to make the time table of the decommissioning. There are many suggestions on how to do that. One of them was to remove it from an annex. The decommissioning is messed with an annex eh. It’s not messed within a law. So that’s part of the process. The decommissioning will be done when the comprehensive agreement is signed. The first phase of the decommissioning should be done but it is only… kasi kaka organize palang ng mga grupo and we oversee the. So, I’m glad that we are beginning the process but we have a long way to go. Maybe I will go when the decommission is at the last.
Interviewer: May mga… Hindi naman daw nila nakita si Senator Marcos tapos ngayon daw po eh very active sa mga discussions. Ang tanong nila.
Sen. Bongbong: The fact that hindi nila ako nakita doesn’t mean that I was not there. I’m sure that you know na marami na akong pinuntahang hearings here in Mindanao and I also conducted hearings in Manila. The reason that I am the one talking about the BBL is that I’m the Chairman of the local government and the Bangsamoro government is presumably, still, a local government. As working on my committee, so I must be the one to handle it. Are those people saying that I have not consulted with them? Because if they want to talk to me, they are welcome.
Sen. Bongbong: We did that. We did all the hearings.
Interviewer: Where in Mindanao did you did it?
Sen. Bongbong: Tawi-tawi, Sulu, Zamboanga, Davao. We almost had half of our hearings in Mindanao where we invited everyone. Basically we are opening the invitation to anyone who wants to speak because I wanted the people to feel that they have been given this chance. If you know of any stakeholders, any groups, that still feel that they were not been able to speak, tell them and tell me then we’ll talk to them. The more information, the better. Again, I’m trying to make this as inclusive a process as possible.
Interviewer: Sir can I go back to Tripoli agreement?
Sen. Bongbong: This is no longer a threat. This will only be a historical discussion.
Interviewer: Because this is the mother agreement…
Sen. Bongbong: No longer. This is not the mother agreement anymore.
Interviewer: Let us what I said earlier. Because your mother and your father were trying to find solutions to this problem and here we are, basically this situation so I really wanted to find out what your vision will be in the economy that would hopefully find closure to these decades hope.
Sen. Bongbong: I would say that what we had to do is to better in terms of the inclusiveness of the process. That we have to talk to everyone who is involved. We also have to make better effort talking to the other armed groups, not just one. So in that way, we will be able to say that if they are on board, they support the peace agreement, that they will be part of the peace process. Only then can we say that we made some efforts into answering the problems and the issues that they bring up. Beyond peace agreements, I sincerely believe that there has to be a stronger mechanism for the development in Mindanao. Not Muslim Mindanao but Mindanao in general. Since we start with the Tripoli agreement, let’s end there. If you remember, during the Tripoli agreement was signed, it was not just the Tripoli agreement that are pieces of paper are signed. It was going to bring peace and the implementation of that. And part of the implementation of that was infrastructure development plan. As you know, during the 76s… soon the following years, there was a big infrastructure developmental program that was formed for Mindanao. Of course that is one of the grievances that had been raised. The Manila has forgotten about Mindanao and has left its own devices and did not develop it properly that’s why economic in Mindanao is far behind, etc.. So that is a valued position, that’s a valued statement for me and again that was the development program that was meant to address the problems. In my view, as long as we stay true to the principle, that the government recognizes the differences between Muslim Filipinos and other Filipinos that they have a different culture, they have a different history, they have a different religion, different law, as long as you stay true to that, then that is derived from the idea of Autonomy. Then I think it will be an important step to bringing peace. But then the concept of what we are going to do to leave that concept is much more important because we can have very good ideas, but if you don’t do anything about it then nothing happens.
Interviewer: Last na po. Did you sign the committee report?
Sen. Bongbong: No.
Sen. Bongbong: We don’t need a signature. And I was busy, I haven’t seen it. I don’t know if they give it to me but I was doing this that’s why. When I asked about it, they said “Naka pirma na yung sampu”.
Interviewer: Sir with the new version of the BBL that you are preparing, are you considering the inclusion of the 1996 impact?
Sen. Bongbong: There is no need to include. That is concluded, that is included between the government and the MNLF. But I think with the MNLF of a larger part because as I’ve said, I’m trying to make this a more inclusive process and to not include the MNLF since to their shortcomings. Actually, we had hearing just for the MNLF.
Interviewer: Sir what will be the new name of the new BBL version because from the House of Representatives, they amended that name BBL to the Basic Law of the Bangsamoro.
Sen. Bongbong: Yes because I changed the name of Bangsamoro government to Bangsamoro Autonomous Region.
Sen. Bongbong: I don’t know. I will see. We haven’t talked about it because that is an attempt to… I think, I’m not sure, I think it was an attempt by the House to remedy the criticism that it is unconstitutional because we are not allowed to form a third autonomous region. So pag sinabing Bangsamoro Autonomous Region, sasabihin nila that is still the second but it’s still arguable.
Interviewer: In your own opinion, what do you think of the Opt in.
Sen. Bongbong: Well I don’t have a very big opinion on that because certainly, it doesn’t make any sense that the administrative entity changes its boundaries every so often and secondly, many, if not all of all those LGUs that has been sent to the Opt in provision do not want to be included in the Opt in provision or in the Bangsamoro government. That’s what they told us during the hearings which was conducted for the LGUs. But I think more to the point that will happen is that we will delete it them. We will delete the Opt in provision. The House was thinking of the same solution.
Interviewer: Thank you very much. That ends our press conference.