Press conference: Senate of the Philippines

BBM: The filing of the Committee Report on what we now call, The Bangsamoro Autonomous Region Law. The short title in the bill is the Basic Law on the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region. So, that is how we have come to refer to the substitute bill which I filed on Monday. I hope that the sponsorship speech go some way of course, it would have been too long if I was to going to go into all the details and the explanations as to why we did the things that we did, the changes that we made, the additions that we made, but I hope that in the sponsorship speech we gave the general principles that guided the deliberations and the writing of the final version of the substitute bill which I have filed yesterday, on Monday and which I just sponsored today. So, with that, any questions?

Q: Sir good afternoon… of GMA 7. Sir, I read your version and there is an emphasis there on the rule of the Constitution. You also included in one of the provisions that the Bangsamoro area remains part of the Philippines. Why did you emphasize this? Because if you compare it with the original parang wala.

BBM: We just actually returned that kind of provision that was in ARMM. The 905 in the ARMM Law. In that it was also clearly stated that this autonomous region will remain as part of the Republic and will not be used and whatever is done under the name of that law, will not be a step to be used as a first move to secede or o separate any part of the republic from the republic. I will have to admit, there was also a political, you can call it a political aspect to that, and that is that. The single greatest fear as expressed by all Filipinos is, that this is the beginning of the separation of the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region away from the Republic of the Philippines. That is why it was terribly important that we allay all such fears so that to make the idea of a Bangsamoro government, a Bangsamoro autonomous region, more acceptable and more palatable, not only our leaders but also the general public. In fact, many times it was commented during the conduct of our hearings, the comment was made, just make one amendment. Make an amendment saying that this is not going to separate any part of the Philippine Republic from the Republic of the Philippines. To again, to allay that fear, we put that in. There was an argument that was made during the hearings. As if to say that to put in such a provision would be an insult to the MILF because it’s like saying we do not trust the MILF not to separate. My contention is that, although we trust our partners in peace in the MILF now, we will not know who will be the leadership of any of those groups in the future. Perhaps we will not have the same assurances for the Philippines about not separating. It was a very important point which was remedied quite easily just by putting it in that provision.

Q: Sir, just to continue on the subject. Were there provisions that you had to delete to make sure that the Bangsamoro government, the envisioned government, will not have that power to secede?

BBM: No. As a matter of fact, there’s no part in the draft BBL that gives them any such authority. It is again similar. They can take a vote and say that their sense is that they should separate but it has no legal effect because again, it is actually disallowed. We have seen examples in our countries where they have taken a vote to separate but nothing really happened. It was maybe an expression of sentiment in a certain area.

Q: Sir, nabigyan na ba ng kopya ng version nito, iyung pinresent niyo ngayon dito sa Senate, iyung MILF? Kung mayroon kayong initial input, anong reaction nila?

BBM: Wala pa. I think hindi kami specifically na nagbigay ng kopya sa kahit na sino besides the Senators. Nagbigay kami sa mga ibang mga humingi but what I did is I made it available sa website ko. Nasa website ko, nasa facebook ko. Anyone can download it and read it. I think, since Monday lang lumabas, ang mga reaction, kakaunti pa lang. Pero I’m happy to say that the reaction is certainly that it was not what people somehow people expected, that we would just completely throw away all of the elements of the draft law. I am happy to have been able to surprise them by trying to stay very, very close to what were the intents and aims of the original law and the framework agreements.

Q: Ang nakikita ng ilan kasi dito baka hind imaging maganda ang reaksyon ng kabilang grupo dito sa version ng Senate. Parang kasi sila, kumbaga, ewan ko lang kung tama iyung term, na parang nasa likod nila iyung gobyerno sa pagsusulong ng version na parang mas malapit doon sa version ng House. Pagdating naman ng botohan, syempre majority-minority count. So papaano ito?

BBM: Ganoon din. Dadaan tayo sa proseso. Hindi natin alam kung ano ang mangyayari sa pagka natapos iyung proseso but lagi kong pinapaalala, ito ang starting point palang. Kung mayroong mga komentaryo, in fact sa House nangyari na, na iyung I think iyung peace panel ng negotiating panel ng both sides ay pinuntahan ang leadership ng Ad Hoc Committee para ibigay iyung kanilang comments. Mayroon ata silang na-identify na I think it’s twenty-eight provisions that they say are violative of the framework agreement. Pero pinag-usapan nila iyun. We can always undertake that same process here.

Q: So, parang hindi safe na sabihin na bago matapos ang Pnoy administration ay buo na iyang BBL?

BBM: The only area that I can talk about with any authority is the Senate. Sa palagay ko, I’m sure mahaba ang magiging deliberasyon niyan. Pero sa Senado sa palagay ko, I cannot see that the interpellation and the process of amendments is going to take much longer than six weeks. Mahaba na iyun. If we debate it as often as we possibly can. Ano ba ngayon? It is now the twelfth. So, six weeks, break’s until the end of September.

Q: May schedule ba kayo kung gaano kahaba na particular na oras ang kakainin sa bawat sessions niyo?

BBM: Wala pa. wala pang ganoon. Pinag-usapan lang namin na mailabas na iyung report. Pero nasabay nga doon sa usapan ang listahan ng mga priority bills hindi lamang ng mga Senador, kung hindi sa at papaano namin pagkakasyahin doon sa oras na naiiwan sa amin. The Senate President will just, I think, will have to assess how the debates, how the deliberations are going para makita niya kung kailangang magmadali, kung kailangan magsimula sa umaga, things like that. That will have to be determined by the Senate President. Kung mabilis ang takbo, siguro maaari niyang sabihin, tama na muna iyung basic law, gawin muna natin iyung mga ibang batas. Pero kung mahina iyung takbo, dadagdagan nga na magstart sa umaga. Para matapos. Kasi pagdating nan g budget, iyun na lang ang puede naming pag-usapan.

Q: Atsaka Sir, iyung filing ng mga mag or tatakbo, by October.

BBM: Tama. Tama. Kaya’t maganda kung matatapos kami by then. Nagkagulo-gulo nga kasi napush back iyung schedule. Dapat hindi naging ganito. Kung hindi nagkaroon ng 6 month delay sa pagbigay ng Palasyo, ng Executive sa House of Representatives at saka sa Senado, kung hindi nangyari iyung Mamasapano, na we had to cease, suspend rather hearings for almost two months, sa palagay ko hindi na sana maging problema iyun. Pero nandito na tayo, we just have to do what we can to lessen the confusion.

Q: Sir, doon sa version niyo yung sinasabi na first and regular session of the parliament will be on the first Monday of May in 2019. Tama ba iyun? Bakit ganoon iyung panimula?

BBM: That’s the first regular. Kasi iyung susunod, iyung una, we don’t know. But we know that the one after that will be synchronized. Kagaya noong ARMM. Pero synchronized, one week before.

Q: Ito iyung naka set-up na?

BBM: Iyun na di’ba iyung ARMM sinusundan lang namin, iyung ARMM magkakaroon ng halalan, first Monday of May of 2019 for sure. Pero iyung very first election for the parliament, hindi namin alam kung kalian matatapos ito. So, hindi namin masabi kung ano iyung first. So, that’s why we specified the first regular election.

Q: Pasensiya na.

BBM: Ikaw lang ata nagbasa.

Q: Sir, sa Senate version you included decommissioning. But when you read the contect of decommissioning, it does not only involve the MILF per se but also the private armies in the area, other armed groups. So, putting it in the Senate version only deals with the MILF forces. How do you deal with the other armed groups?

BBM: Well if they have chosen not to join the peace process, wala tayong magagawa. We will have to confront them in any way that we feel is necessary. Hopefully. Pero nandoon na tayo. At this point, we are confronting them militarily but also, politically and also as many other ways as we can. So, it was for me important that decommissioning be very, very clear because ang pangamba ng maraming grupo na masasama sa autonomous region, ay sinasabi baka naman isang grupo lang ang armado pagdating ng halalan. Paano na ang mangyayari sa amin niyan? Wala na kaming pag-asa. Kung kami naman ay magdala ng baril, sila naman ay labag sa batas. So, it’s not a level playing field, ika nila. So, that’s what we are trying to achieve. A level playing field especially when it comes to elections.

Q: Ito lang follow-up lang. Ewan ko lang kung napaliwang niyo na ito or may mga nagtanong na sa inyo. Sila ba pag naging BBL na, iyung mga areas nito ay pupuede pa silang magbuo ng partylist na sasama dito sa Congress natin dito?

BBM: Oo. Bakit hindi? That is the right of any Filipino. Sure. In fact, I think may plano yata silang gawin iyun.

Q: With or without BBL parang may binubuo sila?

BBM: I don’t know kung ano iyung plan. We’ll see. First of all, the MILF has already constituted a political party that is under the MILF because they are preparing all the elections to the parliament. So, kailangan may partido. Mayroon akong mga naririnig na magbubuo rin daw sila ng party list para mag-apply as a party list na para sa halalan. But I don’t know kung matutuloy iyun. We haven’t really discussed it.

Q: Hindi pa parang ano Sir, parang nadoble na iyung BBL?

BBM: Well, hindi naman. Kasi iba naman iyung Congress, iba namang iyung Bangsamoro parliament. Pero siguro kasi ang party list iyung disenfranchised. Mahirap siguro masabing disenfranchised sila dahil nabigyan sila ng sarili nilang legislature, sarili nilang area, sarili nilang powers. But again, it’s up to the COMELEC to determine. Pero lahat nga ng aming ginawa ay para nga hindi sila disenfranchised na. so, sana naman pagka napasa na ito ay pakiramdam nila ay hindi sila disenfranchised at mayroon silang sufficient na representation, not only in local but also in national.

Q: Sir, in the original draft of the BBL, there was a preamble. Bakit po iyung sa draft po ninyo or sa substitute bill, wala po siya?

BBM: Hindi namin maunawaan kung bakit nagkaroon ng preamble. It is a statute. Ang statute naman walang preamble. At saka pati naman iyung form niya parang Constitution. Kaya’t sinabi namin, huwag na natin, not make it look like a Constitution para hindi natatakot iyung iba na nagtatayo ng nga tayo ng hiwalay na state. The precise instruction, I remember when I walked into the room with the staff, sabi ko let us remove all vestiges of a constitution from the bill that we are going to make. But there are many principles that are stated in the preamble that found its way into the body. So, it’s really the form. Wala kaming objection doon sa preamble, iyung nakalaman sa preamble. Pero the fact of a preamble and the from as it is written as a Constitution, we avoided that.

Q: Sir, time table. Let’s assume that September you will pass it and consequently sa House din, pagpapalagay days, six months before the plebiscite right? Or that can be compressed?

BBM: Sabi ng COMELEC, six months talaga.

Q: Okay. So kung September Sir, March iyung plebiscite and then the BTA also needs  So, obviously next admin na?

BBM: If you ask me the BTA needs a great deal more than a hundred twenty days. So, I think we will have to re-think that. But again, the Chairman Murad has made statements. Sabi na niya na para sa kanila, kahit na next administration na basta maganda iyung batas. Iyun ang kanilang inaalala. Hindi nila inaalala this administration or the next administration, kung hindi kung iyung quality of the law.

Q: But the establishment of the government seems to be concerned of the next admin already? That will be parang sa next administration na siya.

BBM: It’s possible. Maaaring umabot sa next administration. Wala namang nagsasabing kailangan sa administrasyon na ito kung hindi ang Palasyo.

Q: Pero Sir kung next administration, back to square one?

BBM: No. Batas na.

Q: Irerefile na lang?

BBM: Hindi. Tapos na. Pasado na. It’s a law. It has to be implemented. I think ma-aapprove naman before next year’s election. Pero iyung implementation, I mean having said that, nagkakaproblema sa House dahil kinekwestyon ang korum. I don’t think we will have that kind of situation sa Senado. Kaya lang mahirap magpredict. Ang hirap magsabi kung kailan matatapos. Maraming maaaring mangyari. Umabot na nga tayo sa budget season. So, once we start hearings on the budget. Once we start the floor deliberations on the budget, iyun lang ang aming gagawin. So mapupush back. Tapos, pagkatapos ng budget, which is magpapasko na, nakapagfile na ang mga kakandidato. Ngayon pa lang iniisip na nila iyung kandidatura. Again, that will be a factor. I don’t know how it will affect it but iyan ang mga hinaharap ng Bangsamoro Basic Law.

Q: Sir ano ineexpect niyo pagdating bicam? Kasi sabi niyo there are big differences doon sa Senate and House version. So sa tingin niyo mahihirapan ba pagdating sa bicam?

BBM: Between you and me I don’t think so dahil marami sa aming ginawa gusto naman talagang gawin ng mga congressmen. Pero pinilit nga iyung Palace version sakanila. Pero sila mismo, dahil iyun ang kanilang sinabi. Mayroon na silang mga statements especially the Chairman Rufus Rodriguez, had already stated before the Ad Hoc Committee started its work na ganito ang mga gusto niyang gawin, ganito ang mga gusto niyang palitan. Iyun na nga. Pinilit nga iyung Palace Version. So, marami sa aming ginawa iyung gusto rin nila talagang gawin. Siguro palagay ko, sasang-ayon sila. I-aadopt nila iyung at least those provisions. They will adopt parts of our version. I hope so anyway. Para maging mas smooth ang takbo.

Q: Sir, parang nanibago lang ako doon sa mga ibang sponsorship speech ng mga na tinarabaho ng mga committee, sa dakong huli sinasabi nila na aprubahan natin para masama iyung batas na ito. Pero sa inyo po wala parang wala na iyung sinabi na aprubahan natin itong Bangsamoro Autonomous Region Law.

BBM: Hindi ibig sabihin na hindi ko gusto iapprove. Gusto ko iapprove dahil sa palagay ko tama ang version na ito. Pero marami pa kaming pinag-uusapan na maaaring dagdag, na maaaring gawing amendment. So, in my mind talagang kasama sa proceso iyung period of amendments at pinag-uusapan nga namin ano kaya ang magandang ilagay, ano ang nakikita mong kulang pa. So again para sa akin, hindi pa ending ito. Ang parang sinasabi ko sa aking mga kapwang senador, tignan ninyo ito at magsabi kayo at pag-usapan natin kung ano sa palagay ninyo. Kung maganda sa palagay ninyo, kung hindi maganda, kung ano iyung dapat palitan, etcetera. So the process in ongoing. That is the substitute bill and as far as the Senate goes in the floor deliberation, it is the starting point. Alam naman ninyo na lalo na contentious na ganito, maraming senador ang may mga ideas tungkol nga sa mga amendments na puedeng gawin.

Q: Sir, there are calls that BBL should spared from Partisan politics Ano iyung assurance na they will be spared from Partisan politics?

BBM: The Partisanship only entered into the discussions on the Bangsamoro Law when the Palace forced its version on it party members in the House. That’s the only time we talked about parties in this whole process.

Q: So dapat direkta sa Malacanang? Dapat sa Malacanang ang…

BBM: Oo dapat nga. Matagal ko ng sinasabi dapat hindi nahahaluan ng pulitika. Dapat hindi haluan ng pulitika. Tignan ninyo iyung batas, tignan niyo kung talagang sa palagay ninyo magaling, edi ipasa iyan. Kung sa palagay ninyo may kailangang gawin pa, gawin natin. Pero huwag nating sasabihin, bakit sino bang nandiyan, kasama ba natin o hindi? Ganoon ang mga nangyayari. So, whether or not it was to the conscience of the Congressmen, ipinilit nga iyung Palace version. Ginamit diyan is the party machinery. Gumalaw na iyung mga whip, iyung mga party leadership. Hindi pa naman nangyari iyan sa ibang partido, LP lang.

Q: Sir, in the House levels, kinriticize iyung pagbubuo ng Bangsamoro police, Bangsamoro Audit Commission, and then the Electoral Office, but in your version, you retained it but refined the language. Can you ay iyung logic of retaining it?

BBM: Because they need to have a COA. Any local government unit needs to have a COA monitoring and auditing whatever they do. They also need a Civil Service. They also need a police. Kahit na saang probinsiya, lahat ng probinsiya may pulis. Lahat ng probinsiya may COMELEC office. Lahat ng probinsiya, pati city may Civil Service. So, ganoon ang ginawa namin. Pero ang tawag namin Bangsamoro Electoral Office pero nakailalim sa COMELEC. Ang COMELEC pa rin ang magsasabi pag halimbawa, sa proseso na halalan, proseso ng plebiscite, ang mamumuno diyan at ang magsasabi diyan ay iyung COMELEC kung papaano gagawin sa halalan ng Bangsamoro Parliament. Ang magpapatakbo diyan at magdedecide doon sa mga procedure, COMELEC pa rin. Kasi di’ba iyun ang isang unang naging issue, na bakit mayroon silang sarili? That is against the Constitution. So, sabi namin, sundan natin iyung ginagawa sa ibang lugar. May office pero ang niliwanag namin ay nasa ilalim ng central office ng national government.

Q: Sir, last. How do you reconcile calls for justice for the SAF 44 and pushing this BBL? Because to some these are mutually exclusive items?

BBM: How can it possibly be mutually exclusive? How can it be possibly be mutually exclusive? Because in my view, ang sakripisyo noong SAF 44, hindi sila nagsakripisyo para makuha si Marwan. Ang sakripisyo nila ay para imulat ang mata ng taong bayan tungkol dito sa nangyayari sa Mindanao. That is why to honour them, we have to honour that sacrifice- and to honour that sacrifice, is to recognize the need for this is to understand what are the issues, what are the concepts, the principles that are going on behind the peace process? Not only for those in Muslim Mindanao but for the entire country.

Q: Sir, mayroon kaming balita na para matapos na dahil hindi daw katanggap-tanggap? Ano pong masasabi niyo dito?

BBM: Well, ginawa lang namin. Unang-una iyung isa sa maliwanag na prinsipyo sinundan namin.kung may hiningi na ganyang powers or ganitong function, kung kaya ibigay, binigay namin. Pangalawa, kung nabigay na ng ARMM, hindi na namin binawasan. Kung ano ang binigay sa ARMM Law, at least pareho o kung minsan, in certain cases, mas malaki ang binibigay, especially sa funding. So, hindi ko alam kung ano iyung ibig sabihin ng mas mababa. In what sense? Sa funding? Sa funding palagay ko maliwanag na hindi mas mababa. At least as far as it goes, baka lagyan namin ng ibang mekanismo, ibang proseso, ibang formula. Pero hindi mo masasabing mas mababa. So, I don’t know what that means. Ngayon, kung mayroon silang sinasabi na kailangang ibalik pero labag sa Saligang Batas, kahit anong gawin namin hindi namin magagawa iyun. Kahit anong sabihin ng kahit na sino na maglagay kami ng unconstitutional na provision na alam namin na unconstitutional, mahirap naman ipalit.

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