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Bangsamoro watch: House joint panels adopt BBL committee report

House Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez

The campaign to establish a new Bangsamoro region in Mindanao passed a major hurdle in the House of Representatives, the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process (OPAPP) reported on May 15.

According to the OPAPP, the House Joint Committees on Local Government, Muslim Affairs, and the Special Committee on Peace, Reconciliation and Unity voted for the adoption of committee report supporting House Bill 6475 or the proposed Bangsamoro Basic Law.

This was a positive legislative development for the Duterte administration and the Bangsamoro Transition Commission (BTC) because the House joint committees adopted the Bangsamoro bill without any amendments.

The said committee report on House Bill 6475, which was sponsored by House Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez, will then be sent to the plenary for deliberations.

According to reports, the members of the House committee on local government approved the bill 32-3. For its part, a majority of the House panel on Muslim Affairs also voted to support the measure, 27-3. The members of the special committee on peace, unity and reconciliation also chose to support the Alvarez sponsored bill, 27-3.

This meant that 89 of 299 congressmen in the House have committed to support the bill as written by the Bangsamoro Transition Commission.

According to a report released by the Press and Public Affairs Bureau of the House of Representatives, the joint committee report consolidated Alvarez’s House Bill 6475 with House Bills 92, 6121 and 6263 which were authored by the House Speaker, Deputy Speaker Bai Sandra Sinsuat Sema, and Representatives Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo and Mohammad Khalid Dimaporo, respectively.

The consolidated bill provides for the creation of a Bangsamoro Region and the abolition of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM), repealing for the purpose RA 9054, or the law strengthening and expanding the Organic Act for the ARMM, and RA 6734 or the law providing for an Organic Act for the ARMM.

The approval of the committee report was made on the basis of a motion raised by Quezon City Rep. Christopher Belmonte to pass it.

During the explanation of votes, Rep. Raul Daza said he voted in favor of the draft committee report with full faith and confidence that the process described by the assistant majority leader as stated in Section 52, will best serve the interest of democracy and the Filipino people.

Daza said he has not committed to any specific amendment as to how he will vote. “I shall look at every amendment during the process which accordingly, will be given full consideration during the caucus and during the plenary deliberation on the floor,” said Daza.

Rep. Celso Lobregat said he voted no for various reasons and issues such as education. “Are we going to allow education to be exclusively the domain of the Bangsamoro?” said Lobregat.

While he is for peace, Lobregat said he believes that what is needed is a Bangasamoro Basic Law that is just not only for the Bangsamoro but for every Filipino.

Rep. Romeo Acop voted no because of the provisions regarding the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP), the Philippine National Police (PNP), and the National Police Commission (NPC).

Acop said the provisions of Republic Act 6475 are basically the same as those in the previously proposed BBL. Being one of the chairmen in the ad hoc committee on the BBL, Acop said nothing has been changed.

Rep. Abdullah Dimaporo said what people want is long-lasting peace, and not just in the short term.

“We have trust and confidence in the President. We hope and pray that he will be able to do something such that peace will last even after his term,” said Dimaporo.

Sen. Juan Miguel Zubiri / AP Photo by Aaron Favila

Meanwhile, in the Senate, the OPAPP reported that interpellation resumed in the chamber’s version of the Bangsamoro bill.

In the OPAPP report, Sen. Juan Miguel Zubiri was quoted as saying that the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) had declared its support for the proposed Bangsamoro Basic Law.

“The MNLF endorses it,” Zubiri said, adding that the MNLF will be “properly represented in the Bangsamoro government.

The Senate deliberations on the matter was scheduled to continue on May 21.

This twin developments meant the constant lobbying made by the leaders and supporters of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) to have the bill passed under the Duterte administration has been bearing fruit, both in the House of Representatives and the Senate.

The previous attempt to pass a Bangsamoro bill failed under the Aquino administration because of issues about the proposed law’s constitutionality and opposition from the MNLF, the rival of the MILF.

The MNLF was largely excluded in the discussion and legislative effort to have the proposed BBL gain congressional approval. The exclusion also lead the MNLF’s founder, Nur Misuari, to stage a mini-revolt in Zamboanga City.

Under the Duterte administration, the MNLF’s opposition was overcome after President Rodrigo Duterte signed an executive order revising the composition of the Bangsamoro Transition Commission. This action enabled the MNLF’s representatives to be included as members of the BTC. G

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