Marcos: Bangsamoro law won't be passed under Aquino
MANILA, Philippines – Senator Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr declared that a law that aims to end 4 decades of armed conflict and poverty in Muslim Mindanao will not be passed under the Aquino administration.
The chairman of the Senate local government committee in charge of the measure said Congress is out of time to pass the Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) before President Benigno Aquino III steps down in June 2016.
On the last session day for 2015, Marcos said on Wednesday, December 16, that lawmakers including himself will be busy campaigning for the May 2016 polls.
“Baka sa next administration na. Nauubusan na tayo ng oras. Siguro, we can reasonably expect na 'pag ang session sa Enero, ang short sessions sa Enero, hindi na tayo makakakuha ng quorum sa House of Representatives dahil lahat ng congressmen, I'm sure 99% of them kandidato for one thing or another. Nangangampanya na iyan,” said Marcos.
(Maybe it will be left to the next administration. We are running out of time. Perhaps we can reasonably expect that in the sessions, short sessions in January, we will not get quorum in the House of Representatives because almost all of the congressmen are running for office. They are already campaigning.)
Congressional leaders set a December 16 deadline to pass the bill, the latest in a series of extensions since March.
The bill is a product of a historic 2014 peace agreement between the Philippine government, and the rebel group Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF). Pending for over a year now, it aims to create a new region called Bangsamoro, with greater powers and resources than the current Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao.
Yet the measure faced stiff opposition after a January 25 police operation to arrest Malaysian terrorist Zulkifli bin Hir alias Marwan in the MILF stronghold of Mamasapano, Maguindanao. An ensuing clash killed 67 Filipinos, including 44 commandos.
Marcos said the problem lies with the House, whose members he said have “very strong objections” to the bill.
In the Senate, there is an unresolved question on whether or not the measure will be considered a local bill. If the BBL is a “bill of local application,” Marcos explained that the chamber must wait for the House version to pass before senators can vote on it.
“The question is not whether or not we can deliberate on the basic law but whether or not we can vote on it,” he said.
Still, the bill is far from hurdling Senate deliberations. Now in the period of interpellation, the bill is under question from Senate Minority Leader Juan Ponce Enrile. Enrile is still on page 4 of the 100-page bill.
Aquino and the peace panels have been urging Congress to “seize the opportunity” of ensuring peace in the southern Philippines by expediting the bill's passage. They cited threats from global terrorism as a reason to move the peace process forward.
“We are at the cusp of closing a major armed conflict that has divided our people for decades. But we cannot reach our destination without the goodwill and show of statesmanship from our leaders in the august halls of Congress, in whose hands the legislative power lies,” the peace panels said in an open letter.
Marcos: I have nothing to defend
Marcos is the son of the late dictator Ferdinand Marcos. In previous Senate hearings, the MILF pointed out that it was during the regime of Marcos' father when the Muslim rebellion in Mindanao erupted.
A vice presidential candidate, Marcos said he should not be blamed for the bill's status.
In June, the senator rejected the version of the bill that the peace panels are pushing for, saying it violated the Constitution. Instead, he created his own “substitute bill” that some sectors described as “watered down,” and “less than the ARMM.”
“I have nothing to defend. I did my work. We ran out of time,” said Marcos.
“To those who say we were not supportive [of BBL], I repeatedly say that if we wanted to kill the basic law, then we should not have acted. We should have allowed it to pass, be questioned before the Supreme Court because clearly, it's unconstitutional. But that's not what we did because the peace process is important,” he added.
Marcos gave contradictory statements on the proposed law, and the implications of Congress' failure to pass it within the Aquino administration.
While saying the peace process was “not a local but a national issue,” Marcos does not expect the measure to affect his vice presidential bid.
“Maybe in Mindanao, it will have an impact. But in the national consciousness, I don't think it is a top of mind issue for people who are not actually involved in Muslim Mindanao.”
Marcos said he even got support for opposing the law, and for proposing an alternative.
“I think people appreciate the fact that we worked on it sincerely and honestly and really tried to do the best job we can. We got support not just in Mindanao but in the whole Philippines. They appreciated it.”
He said a problem with the bill was that it did not define who the Bangsamoro people are.
“Are you referring to the MILF, the [Moro National Liberation Front], the Tausug, Maguindanao, Maranao, the Sultanate of Sulu? They are different, and they have different opinions. They want different things.”
Marcos said the next Congress will not have to start from scratch.
Bills that do not pass within a Congress have to go through the entire legislative mill again.
Yet the legislator said there is a new process that allows the next Congress to “take note” of the previous work done. – Rappler.com