As Congress began discussions on the Bangsamoro bill for its swift passage into law, the Government of the Philippines (GPH), Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), and Bangsamoro Transition Commission (BTC) spoke in unison that the future Bangsamoro will exercise genuine autonomy within the flexibilities of the Philippine Constitution. They assured that the Bangsamoro will not be a separate state, but will remain part of the
“Supremacy of the Philippine Constitution is a fact found in the Bangsamoro bill. It states that the Bangsamoro is within Philippine territory and it will be under the President's supervision as mandated in the Constitution,” Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process Teresita Quintos Deles explained. She emphasized that “autonomy (for the Bangsamoro) does not mean dismemberment from the country, as the future region will still be part of the Philippines.”
BTC and MILF Peace Panel Chair Mohagher Iqbal, also cited in his opening statement that “there are enough flexibilities in the Constitution to allow the establishment of the Bangsamoro.”
Deles and Iqbal, together with GPH Peace Panel Chair Professor Miriam Coronel-Ferrer were among the main resource persons invited at the House of Representatives on Wednesday to present and discuss the proposed Bangsamoro Basic Law to the Ad Hoc Committee on the BBL, which is headed by Cagayan de Oro 2nd district Rep. Rufus Rodriguez. Members of the BTC and legal teams involved in the crafting of the draft BBL were also present as well as civil society groups.
Deles, in her opening statement, underscored that “it is their (GPH, MILF, and BTC) joint intent that throughout the entire legislative process (for the passage of the Bangsamoro bill), they will continue to work and speak as one.”
The proposed Bangsamoro Basic Law, filed as House Bill 4994 in the House of Representatives and Senate Bill 2804, is the enabling law of the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro (CAB) signed between GPH and MILF on March 27 of this year. It aims to establish a Bangsamoro region, which will exercise genuine autonomy, that will replace the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) by 2016.
Lawmakers’ support, scrutiny of the bill
Meanwhile, a number of lawmakers affirmed support for the Bangsamoro bill as they sought clarifications with the BTC, GPH, and MILF on some provisions of the priority measure.
North Cotabato Rep. Nancy Catamco, Chair of the House Indigenous Peoples’ Committee, manifested her support for the passage of the law, saying it is because she can see that IPs in the proposed Bangsamoro territory are supportive of the bill which has explicit provisions on the respect of IPs rights.
Anak Mindanao Rep. Djalia Hataman, a member of the Ad Hoc Committee expressed hope and prayers that as a legislator, she can help “get this law passed.” She shared that “heated, passionate debates will ensue not just among legislators, but the public in general,” but prays that “we do not come out of this divided. Let this be a true exercise of democracy.”
Deles in responding to clarifications to the Bangsamoro bill expressed her appreciation for the rigorous scrutiny of the proposed organic act to ensure that it becomes the best autonomy law that will be passed. “We welcome scrutiny. That is a sort of engagement we expect,” she said while relaying that the GPH, MILF, and BTC will pursue dialogue with Congress to build understanding on the substance and spirit of the Bangsamoro bill.
Magdalo Partylist Rep. Gary Alejano also relayed support to ensuring that the Bangsamoro bill will be “constitutional and acceptable to all stakeholders.”
Appeal to Congress
Actor Robin Padilla, who attended the committee hearing, appealed, to Congress to take on their monumental role for the successful passage of the Bangsamoro law which he believes is crucial for peace in the south.
“Nag-aantay po ang lahat. Magiging historical po ito para po sa inyong mga mambabatas. Ito po ang iiwan ninyong legacy sa Pilipinas na kayo po ang naging daan upang makamit talaga ang tuwid na daan. (Many are waiting. This [passage of the Bangsamoro bill] will be a historical [role] for you lawmakers. This is your legacy to the Philippines; that you became an instrument in achieving the straight path.),” said Padilla.
Padilla said that the success of the Bangsamoro law, which is within the hands of Congress, will also benefit and bring more peace and progress in other areas in the country.
BTC commissioners Timuay Melanio Ulama and Abdullah Camlian, during the committee hearing, also expressed their appeal to Congress for the passage of the law. Ulama is confident that that the Bangsamoro law respects IP rights, while Camlian, in an emotional speech, underscored the historical background and significance of resolving the Bangsamoro aspiration for self-governance through genuine autonomy for the Bangsamoro region.
Coronel-Ferrer, on her part, said that “ending the internal conflict in the south through the implementation of the Bangsamoro peace agreement” signed with the biggest rebel group in the country “will provide a viable atmosphere to uplift the lives of our people” in parts of Mindanao which for decades have been mired in conflict and poverty.
Iqbal emphasized that the MILF “trust the wisdom of both houses of Congress to pass a good legislation,” referring to the Bangsamoro bill.(OPAPP)