Sen. Bongbong Marcos today said he is willing to talk to anyone, including President Benigno Aquino III, for a genuine discussion on how to iron out the kinks in the proposed Bangsamoro Basic Law to ensure it leads to lasting peace in Muslim Mindanao.
But count him out if it is merely meant to muscle the Senate into passing Malacanang’s version of BBL, Marcos stressed.
Malacanang earlier said the President is willing to meet with the senators to discuss BBL with them, as he had done before with members of the House of Representatives ad hoc committee.
“As I said before, if we are going to discuss with the President the various issues directly related to BBL, and if he has suggestions for us, we would certainly listen because his inputs are important,” said Marcos, Chairman of the Senate Committee on Local Government, in a radio interview.
“But it’s another matter entirely if it’s only for political manoeuvring, as what was done with the House of Representatives. Then, I don’t think I should be part of that; I don’t want to be involved in anything like that,” he added.
Marcos noted that before meeting with the President, the House ad hoc committee had agreed to line up amendments to address flaws in BBL. But after the meeting the committee swiftly approved the passage of a new version of BBL, discarding changes the panel agreed upon earlier.
He said the reason why many people believe the passage of BBL was railroaded in the House ad hoc committee was spurred by reports that a Liberal Party version was given to the panel and lawmakers were told to take it or leave it.
As far as he is concerned, Marcos said his committee will do its best to address the issues raised against BBL, including constitutional issues, practical administrative concerns, power sharing, and the issue of inclusivity among others.
Marcos said it is inevitable that any version of BBL approved by Congress and signed by the President will be challenged before the Supreme Court, so his panel is doing its best to ensure the BBL version they recommend will stand any constitutional challenge.
“That’s what we are doing and it’s not an easy process. So, why are we being rushed? There is no deadline in the law, there is no deadline in the Framework Agreement, there was no deadline anywhere but suddenly there was this June 11 deadline,” Marcos said.
Marcos said BBL is important and complicated as it involves the lives of the people of Muslim Mindanao and the threat of war hanging over them so it is the duty of lawmakers to ensure they would pass the best version possible.
Marcos earlier said his panel would also seek to address the “shocking revelation” that BBL was drafted without consultation with major stakeholders, including the Moro National Liberation Front, the Sultanates, the indigenous people, and the chief executives in core areas of Bangsamoro territory and adjacent localities.
In Monday’s hearing, for example, Marcos said the testimonies from representatives of the sultanates showed there was no consultation with them and that the proceedings afforded them for the first time to put their views forward on the proposed BBL.
Marcos said none of the sultanates authorized the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) to represent them. Likewise, Marcos said the draft BBL do not contain specific provisions allowing the sultanates to continue their governance in accordance with their ancient ways.
The Sultanates have asked the committee to include provisions in BBL creating a body to help preserve their unique history, culture and tradition, as well as guaranteed seats in the Bangsamoro parliament, appointed similar to sectoral representatives.