Senate, House set to remove Bangsamoro bill’s opt-in clause

Angela Casauay
Senate, House set to remove Bangsamoro bill’s opt-in clause
The option for outside areas to join the proposed Bangsamoro government 'is a polarizing provision that only invites opposition,' says Senate President Drilon

MANILA, Philippines – House and Senate leaders are in agreement that the option for outside areas to join the proposed Bangsamoro government should be deleted from the draft law. 

Senate President Franklin Drilon on Tuesday, June 9, reiterated his stance that the provision should be removed. 

In a statement, he said he would see to that “such a divisive provision will not be in any draft of the Bangsamoro basic law (BBL), which will be made and discussed upon by the Senate.”

At the House of Representatives, Speaker Feliciano Belmonte Jr on Tuesday confirmed that House leaders have agreed to remove the opt-in clause from the proposed law. 

Belmonte said most of the 31 lawmakers who signed up for debates wanted to ask questions on the clause. Removing the provision is expected to decrease the number of interpellators and allow the House to beat the deadline to finish debates before Congress adjourns session on Wednesday, June 10. (READ: Opt-in clause top concern as House plenary tackles BBL

Senate President Franklin Drilon welcomed the House position. 

“The opt-in provision is a polarizing provision that only invites opposition, instead of support, to the BBL. I am glad that our counterparts in the House share the same view,” Drilon said.   

The Senate president said the opt-in provision will only fan “mistrust.”

Under the Bangsamoro bill, renamed Basic Law for the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in the House, contiguous areas or areas sharing a common border with the Bangsamoro core territory may join the plebiscite for inclusion to the Bangsamoro through a petition signed by at least 10% of registered voters. 

The petition can be filed anytime under the original version of the bill. Filing a petition allows a local government unit to join the plebiscite for possible inclusion to the Bangsamoro government. It does not mean automatic inclusion. 

The House ad hoc committee introduced amendments. The approved committee version emphasized that only areas sharing a land border with a Bangsamoro area may join, and those areas should be within the 13 provinces included in the 1976 Tripoli Agreement.

The plebiscite may only be held 5 years and 10 years after the creation of the Bangsamoro and nothing more after that. 

The insertion of the Tripoli Agreement, which mentions Zamboanga and Palawan, among others, attracted strong criticisms from lawmakers and sowed further confusion. 

The Tripoli Agreement was the first major accord signed after the war in Mindanao started in the 1970s. It was signed by the Marcos government and rebel group Moro National Liberation Front. The BBL is based on the accord signed by the Aquino government and MILF’s breakaway group, the Moro Islamic Liberation Front. 

In his speech during the opening of plenary debates, Rodriguez stressed that Zamboanga and Palawan will never be included in the Bangsamoro because they are not contiguous by land.  

Drilon said Congress can choose to add the opt-in provision in the future if there is public clamor for it. 

“Nothing will prevent lawmakers from amending the BBL when the day comes that the public demands the expansion of the. But today is not that day,” he said. –

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