Chiz sees passage of Senate version; Rodriguez downplays differences
With the emergence of two versions of the proposed Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) of significant differences, there seems to be a long way to go before the measure will be finally passed into law.
Last week, the Senate, through the Local Government Committee chaired by Sen. Ferdinand “Bong” Marcos Jr., introduced its substitute BBL much different from the version approved by the House Adhoc Committee on the Bangsamoro last May.
INCONSISTENT WITH CONSTITUTION
The most notable differences of the two versions are the electoral body, civil service office, audit office, human rights body, ombudsman office, and police force.
Under the Senate version, the creation of Bansamoro’s own Philippine National Police (PNP), Commission on Audit (COA), Commission on Elections (Comelec),
Commission on Human Rights (CHR), Civil Service Commission (CSC), and Office of the Ombudsman Philippine were struck out from the original Palace-backed BBL for being inconsistent with the Constitution. Instead, regional offices of these agencies will be set up in the Bangsamoro government. However, creation of these contentious agencies was retained in the House version.
Despite the differences, Sen. Francis “Chiz” Escudero said the Marcos version has a good chance of being pass in the Senate. “May laban, pero malayo ang bersyon ng Kamara sa bersyon ng Senado (There’s a chance, but the House version is much different from the Senate’s)”
“Dapat lunukin ng OPAPP (Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process), MILF (Moro Islamic Liberation Front), at Malacañang ‘yun mga pagbabago na inilagay ng Senado (OPAPP, MILF, and Malacañang should learn to accept the Senate version),” Escudero added.
Escudero, in a talk with Lucena-Quezon-based newsmen, assured that majority members of the Senate favor on the Marcos version and will fight for it.”
Other key differences of the Senate version are the absence of a preamble and the P17-billion Special Development Fund, both present in the House version.
Cagayan de Oro Rep. Rufus Rodriguez, chairman of the House Adhoc Committee on the Bangsamoro, downplayed the significant differences of the version he sponsored from the Senate’s, saying it only proves that “we have a working and healthy democracy.”
He vowed the Lower Chamber’s readiness to reconcile its version with the Senate’s.
“As legislators with independent minds, different takes on the bill are to be expected,” he said.
“But I think both committees have been working on the same premise that the basic law should be inclusive so as not to alienate any stakeholder in the Bangsamoro. This is a very exciting, yet precarious time for all of us. We want everybody on board the peace process,” he pointed out.
Rodriguez noted that like the House version the substitute bill devised by Senator Marcos’ Committee on Local Government is also called the “Basic Law for the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region (BLBAR).”
“In my honest recollection and knowledge, I know of no other bill that has undergone a consultative process as exhaustive as what we did in the BLBAR. We know Sen. Marcos’ committee extended the same diligence,” he said.
He said both chambers could iron out the differences in both versions when the bill reaches the bicameral body as the Senate version supposedly weakened the Bangsamoro parliamentary system of government.
“That is the beauty of our democratic system. You have independent minds working on the same thing who will eventually compare notes, as they say, and reach a consensus,” Rodriguez said.
The House leader continued to bat for the immediate passage of the BBL.
“But, as I’ve said, we are at a very important juncture. The consensus I mentioned should be reached very soon. We should pass this now as the Bangsamoro Basic Law is a very important legacy of Congress to ensure peace and development not only in Mindanao, but throughout the country,” Rodriguez said.
He also took opportunity to congratulate Sen. Marcos for shepherding an important bill positioned to end the decades-long conflict in Mindanao. The Senate will begin its plenary debates on the peace measure next week.
“It is without a doubt a difficult task. There are a lot of balancing acts to be done to ensure that the BLBAR remains true both to the genuine aspirations of the Bangsamoro for self-determination and the 1987 Philippine Constitution,” Rodriguez said.
The Rodriguez panel held 24 public hearings, 19 regular meetings, and 8 executive sessions since the original BBL draft was transmitted to Congress by the Office of the President on September last year. The BLBAR, which is the amended version of that draft was endorsed for House plenary debates.
BUSINESS LEADERS FOR BBL
Meanwhile, business leaders stressed the importance of the passage and ratification of the BBL as the “legacy of every Filipino” to future generations.
“We have seen how conflict in Mindanao has been slowing down human and economic development in the region. We now have the opportunity to correct that through the Bangsamoro Basic Law,” Jaime Augusto Zobel de Ayala said in a statement.
A renowned businessman, Zobel de Ayala is also part of the Citizens’ Peace Council convened last March by President Aquino to thoroughly study the proposed BBL and educate the public on its merits.
Zobel de Ayala said the BBL was crafted to accelerate social justice and human development for Mindanaoans, saying it is “a means to provide social justice and human development for all, whether Lumad, Christian, or Muslim,” and noting that its benefits will not be limited to the Bangsamoro people only.
“We are also certain that the benefits of a peaceful and prosperous Bangsamoro will be felt all over Mindanao and all over the country as well, so we see that the BBL will bring peace and prosperity not only for the Bangsamoro people but for all Filipinos,” he said.
“We are now in an opportune and historic time to correct injustice, enable development, and find peace in Mindanao. This kind of opportunity might not come again,” Zobel de Ayala emphasized.
“But if we are able to do all that through the BBL, it will be the legacy of every Filipino. This generation will be remembered as the one that finally ended the decades-long conflict in Mindanao,” he said.
Rolando Torres, executive director of the Mindanao Business Council, echoed Zobel de Ayala’s sentiment and added that the passage of the BBL is not just the legacy of the Aquino administration nor the lawmakers deliberating on the proposed legislation but of every Filipino.
“The BBL seeks to lay down a strong foundation for peace and development in the Bangsamoro and in Mindanao. The benefits we foresee in terms of economic development are huge, and we expect this to benefit the whole country as well,” Torres explained.
“Through the BBL we see the Bangsamoro region and Mindanao finally catching up and even contributing to the growth of the country as a whole. If we achieve that, it will not just be a legacy of the Aquino administration, it will be the legacy of the entire Filipino nation to all other generations to come,” Torres added.
Various researches have highlighted the economic impact of war. In a 2005 World Bank funded research on the Mindanao conflict, it says that average economic loss during periods of high intensity war, from 1975-1982 was $200 million and the absolute cost estimate from 1997-2001 was the same. Millions were also lost during the “low intensity” period from 1983-1996 with an estimate of $2-$3 billion total economic loss from 1970-2001.
Aside from economic losses, displacement of persons is one of appalling effects of war. In data provided by the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) in their 2012 yearend report, the displacement of persons recorded due to the 2000 all-out war was 982,000 while 600,000 displacements was due to the failure of Memorandum of Agreement on Ancestral Domain (MOA-AD) in year 2008.
On the other hand, a study produced by Standard Chartered, a British multinational banking and financial services company, conveyed that forging a peace agreement between the MILF and the Philippine government could boost the economic growth of the ARMM over five years, and that this will spill over to the larger Mindanao island group.
National Economic Development (NEDA) officials said the passage of the BBL will attract more business investors to the region and boost economic growth in the proposed Bangsamoro region by up to 12.8 percent annually, thus reducing the rate of poverty.