Sen. Ferdinand “Bongbong” R. Marcos, Jr. today said he is ready to defend his proposed Basic Law on Bangsamoro Autonomous Region (Senate Bill No. 2849) when the period of interpellation on the measure begins next week.
On Wednesday, Marcos, Chairman of the Committee on Local Government, sponsored SB 2849 that he crafted as a substitute measure to the Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL).
When asked if he expects to have a tough time defending his substitute bill, Marcos said “no, not in the slightest. I’m looking forward to it so I can explain what we did.”
In his sponsorship speech, Marcos said the substitute measure addresses the constitutional flaws of BBL, protects the country’s interest and sovereignty, and also promotes the interest and aspirations of the Bangsamoro people.
He noted that many Filipinos feared that the original proposed BBL could lead to separation of the Bangsamoro territory from the Republic of the Philippines.
By including a provision in the substitute bill to ensure against possible secession, Marcos said these fears were allayed while making the idea of a Bangsamoro Autonomous Region more palatable to the public and to government leaders.
Marcos said such provision should not be taken as an insult to the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) leaders or to mean that the MILF's declaration that it will abandon secessionist plans cannot be trusted.
“My contention is although we trust our partners in peace in the MILF now, we do not know who will be their leaders in the future and perhaps they will not have the same assurances for the Philippines about not separating,” he said.
Despite his efforts to address the infirmities of the BBL, Marcos still expects a lively debate on the substitute measure next week.
“In a measure as contentious as this one, you can expect many of the other senators to propose amendments that we can introduce to further refine the provisions of the bill,” Marcos said.
He said that while 17 senators have signed his committee report, several of them have expressed their intention to interpellate and introduce their own amendments to the measure.
By his own reckoning, Marcos thinks the debates on the proposed law will take about 6 weeks. The duration of the process will depend on the decision of the Senate leadership.
“The Senate President, I think, will have to assess how the deliberations are proceeding so he can decide if we need to speed things up—if we need to have morning sessions, things like that,” Marcos said.
He noted that there are other priority measures up for deliberation in the Senate, including the proposed 2016 budget. The filing of the certificate of candidacy in October for candidates in the 2016 elections could also get in the way of the deliberations on the measure.
It is also hard to predict, according to Marcos, how the bicameral conference committee proceedings would go after the Senate and the House of Representatives approve their own versions of the measure.
For this reason, Marcos said he is not sure if the measure can be enacted before the term of the current administration ends.
Still, Marcos said it is encouraging to note that the MILF has expressed its assurance that it would continue to work for peace even if the proposed measure fails to pass under the current administration.
Marcos has dedicated his substitute measure to the slain 44 commandos of the Special Action Force and their families whose sacrifice provides the imperative to pursue peace in Mindanao.