Sen. Ferdinand “Bongbong” R. Marcos, Jr., said his decision to hold two-day, marathon hearings in Jolo and Zamboanga on the proposed Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) proved to be correct as it gave his panel valuable inputs that would help in crafting a version of the BBL acceptable to majority of the stakeholders.
Marcos, Chairman of the Senate Committee on Local Government, said the hearings brought out in the open sentiments and concerns of local residents and officials over the draft BBL not given much attention either in the news reports or in the congressional discussions over the proposed law.
“There is really no substitute for talking to the locals,” Marcos said.
The glaring issue that came to the fore in two-day hearings is that of “inclusivity”, according to the Senator.
In Jolo, for example, Marcos noted that many resource persons spent a lot of time decrying the fact that they were left out in the process “because they are MNLF (Moro National Liberation Front), because they are Tausugs, and they belong to the Sultanate of Sulu.”
Representatives from both the MNLF and the Sultanates said they want out of the Bangsamoro territory, as conceived in the draft BBL.
In the Zamboanga hearing, Basilan Governor Jum Akbar bared that the five governors of provinces comprising the ARMM (Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao) were never consulted in the drafting of the BBL.
Likewise, Marcos noted that majority of the indigenous people (IP’s) of Mindanao were apparently left out in the process too.
“That is a very serious shortcoming in the process, that is why we are going to correct it,” Marcos said. For this purpose, he had set a hearing for the MNLF on May 18 and for the Sultanates on May 25.
Marcos said he is also looking at the possibility of another hearing for the local executives of areas that will be included in the Bangsamoro territory and adjacent LGUs even as the ad hoc committee of the House of Representatives is set to vote on its version of BBL.
“It is now well recognized that the only peace agreement that will bring true, just and lasting peace is one that includes all stakeholders in the BBL and in the surrounding territories,” Marcos said.
“And whatever shortcomings Congress has had in consulting with those entities we will try to correct in the next few weeks by asking them to come to the Senate and to give their views and opinions on the BBL,” he added.
He gave assurance that conducting another hearing for the local executives will not cause undue delay in the work of his committee. Malacanang has openly expressed its desire to have BBL passed before the last session day of Congress on June 10.
Marcos earlier said his committee will also introduce amendments to address issues of constitutionality, administration, wealth-sharing, and power relations, among others.
But Marcos warned that if Congress rushes to pass BBL without addressing its flaws it won’t achieve its end of bringing just and lasting peace in Muslim Mindanao.
“The main priority is getting it right; maybe, a far second is getting it done under the deadline,” he stressed.