Cotabato City – Senator Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr, chair of the Senate committee on local governments, assured various stakeholders in the first out-of-town public hearing on the proposed Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) that the Senate will listen intently to all views and recommendations related to and arising from detailed discussions of the historic measure.
“We are now getting into the details of this proposed law and we want to make sure that at the end of this process, the committee will be able to report out a measure that would ensure just and lasting peace in Mindanao,” Senator Marcos said.
The senator also welcomed the information given by ARMM Assistant Executive Secretary Atty. Rasul Mitmug on the creation of the ARMM-GPH-MILF transition committee to thresh out administrative concerns raised by affected employees of ARMM, local governments, and other stakeholders.
Such concerns include government assistance to ARMM employees who may be affected during the transition process, referring to the abolition of the ARMM and transfer of its functions to a Bangsamoro Transition Authority whose members shall be appointed by the President.
Dr. Pearlsia Dans, chairperson of Regional Exeutives and Assistant Secretary of ARMM, said that around 33,000 ARMM personnel are concerned about the effect of the law’s passage on their jobs, citing the constitutional provision on security of tenure.
Atty. Mismug assured Senator Marcos that this was among the topics being discussed by the ARMM-GPH-MILF transition committee. Senator Marcos requested the ARMM-GPH-MILF transition committee to submit to his committee the outcomes of their meetings, as soon as they are able to formulate clear recommendations on how such unresolved issues can be addressed.
“It is our role to study all of these details so that we can achieve our goal of bringing about lasting peace not only in Mindanao but also for the country,” Marcos stressed.
During the whole-day joint Senate hearing of the local governments and peace, unity and reconciliation committees held at the gymnasium of Notre Dame University, local government officials from the Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao (ARMM), the provincial governments of Maguindanao and North Cotabato, and representatives of various groups such as Notre Dame University, the Bangsamoro Youth and Association of Shariah Lawyers expressed full support to the GPH-MILF peace process and the proposed BBL. OPAPP and the Bangsamoro Transition Commission as well as representatives of the Armed Forces of the Philippines also attended the hearing.
However, questions were raised on administrative and practical matters ranging from the fate of around 33,000 ARMM employees to governance issues given the scope of the Bangsamoro Basic Law.
North Cotabato governor Lala Talino-Mendoza noted that in previous consultations with the peace negotiating panels and the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process, she raised some concerns regarding a provision in the BBL where barangays can petition for a plebiscite “anytime” if they want to be a part of the Bangsamoro.
She reiterated her concerns before the Senate committee that the “opt-in” provision in the BBL may bring about uncertainty for LGUs in terms of development planning and in the delivery of services to constituents. She cited as an example a situation wherein a barangay that opted to join the Bangsamoro regional government but is located inside a province has a peace and order problem; the province cannot help out or come to the aid of the barangay even if it is geographically located within the province since it is already under the Bangsamoro autonomous government.
Atty. Mohammed Al-Amin Julkipli of the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process (OPAPP) agreed that the BBL does not define the word “anytime” in relation to a provision granting a barangay to file a petition signed by at least 10% of its total registered voters for inclusion in the Bangsamoro territory.
He also briefed the committee about the normalization process as contained in the Annex on Normalization that details how the decommissioning of weapons from MILF combatants shall take place.
Senator Marcos sought guidance from the resource persons on specific recommendations to address what appear to be “gray areas” in the bill. “It is very unusual for us to be constrained by a previous agreement, therefore the committee also seeks guidance from various stakeholders on how to address administrative and technical concerns raised by some sectors.”
He said that local governments and other institutions who have concerns about the BBL are welcome to submit their recommendations to the committee on possible amendments that would help ensure that the BBL is fair and responsive to the needs of its constituents.