Sen. Bongbong assures South Cotabato local officials he will stand his ground on needed changes in BBL

Senator Ferdinand “Bongbong” R. Marcos, Jr. , Chairman of the Local Government Committee, today assured local officials of South Cotabato that he will stand his ground to remedy the flaws of the proposed Bangsamoro Basic Law to ensure the version Senate passes will address their concerns and those of other major stakeholders.

In a dialogue held at the FB Hotel and Convention Center in Koronadal City, Sen. Bongbong reported to the local officials of the province, as well as civil servants, the latest development in the Senate deliberations on BBL and listened to their concerns as well.

Led by Gov. Daisy Avance Fuentes, other local officials present in the dialogue include Vice Gov. Cecil Biel, South Cotabato Rep. Ferdinand Hernandez (2nd District), members of the provincial council, six town mayors and their vice-mayors, as well as officials and employees of government offices in the province.

Gov. Fuentes had earlier objected to the inclusion of South Cotabato as part of the Bangsamoro when Sen. Bongbong held a hearing on BBL to get the views of local government officials.

“I am standing before you here today to make sure that you know, you understand. I will not allow this draft BBL to be forced down our throats. Hindi ako papayag na i-madali itong BBL, hindi ako papayag na ma-railroad yung BBL sa committee ko,” Sen. Bongbong said.

“I cannot promise that I will win every battle but I am promising you that I will fight with everything that I have for what I believe is necessary,” he added.

Malacañang and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front had earlier urged Congress to pass the draft BBL without changes. While the ad hoc committee of the House of Representatives originally agreed on the need to amend the BBL, they changed their stance after a meeting with the President.

First, Sen. Bongbong explained that in preparing a substitute bill it doesn’t mean he would discard the draft BBL entirely. In fact, the Senator said what they will write will be based on the provisions in the original bill.

Likewise, he also said provisions of the draft BBL may not even be deleted or removed but only clarified.

Sen. Bongbong said that in the preparation of the substitute bill the top priority is addressing the constitutional issues, particularly those identified in the report of Sen. Miriam Defensor Santiago, Chairman of the Committee on Constitutional Amendments and Revision of Codes.

“If we don’t address these issues and the matter is brought later before the Supreme Court, it will likely be struck down as unconstitutional. Then, all what we did was for nothing,” Sen. Bongbong said.

Other areas that the committee will work on include the provisions governing power sharing between the national and Bangsamoro government—including the provision creating the Bangsamoro police, administrative matters, and economic policies.

Sen. Bongbong said that while he recognizes the need to give Bangsamoro regional government autonomy, there must also be appropriate checks and balances in place.

The senator said he will devote the period of recess to prepare the substitute bill so the committee can discuss it when they resume session on July 27.

“We will be very methodical. We will be very objective,” Sen. Bongbong said.

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