Rodriguez to Marcos: Reconsider proposal to amend ARMM law

Angela Casauay
Rodriguez to Marcos: Reconsider proposal to amend ARMM law
The House of Representatives won't finish debates on the Bangsamoro bill before Congress adjourns session

MANILA, Philippines – Cagayan de Oro Representative Rufus Rodriguez on Wednesday, June 10, appealed to Senator Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr to reassess his proposal to amend the organic act for the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) in lieu of passing the draft Bangsamoro law. 

Rodriguez said it would be “much more difficult” for the House and the Senate to reconcile conflicting provisions of the Bangsamoro bill if Marcos pushes through with his proposal. “We hope Senator Bongbong will be reconsidering this,” he said. 

Marcos however said Tuesday, after the final Senate committee hearing on the BBL, that nothing is final. He said he has yet to sit down and write the substitute measure. 

Rodriguez, the primary sponsor of the controversial Bangsamoro basic law (BBL) in the House, asked Marcos to take a look at the version of the bill passed by the ad hoc committee. 

“His privilege speech is about the old original provisions,” Rodriguez said. 

Senator Miriam Santiago’s protest is also on the old original bill. I have yet to hear them comment on the substitute bill of the ad hoc committee,” he added.

The House committee introduced individual amendments to various provisions of the BBL, but retained the parliamentary form of government and the block grant – two of vital features of the Bangsamoro government.

The bill has been renamed the Basic Law of the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region to emphasize that it is not a substate. 

Asked on Tuesday if he would retain the parliamentary form of government, Marcos said he has yet to sit down and start crafting the contents of the substitute bill. 

Experts on the ongoing peace process have however said that the House amendments, especially on revenue-generating capacities, diluted the BBL and rendered the proposed Bangsamoro weaker than the current ARMM

The House amendments also destroyed the concept of asymmetry that was designed in the peace deal between the government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF). This was according to ARMM Board of Investments chief Ishak Mastura, who is also the MILF representative in the Transitional Justice and and Reconciliation Commission. 

MILF chief negotiator Mohagher Iqbal said the rebel group “appreciates” but “does not necessarily accept the House version” due to changes introduced in the control of natural resources and indigenous peoples’ rights. 

After SONA

The passage of the Bangsamoro bill is constricted by constitutional issues and a short transition period, among others. (READ: 4 scenarios if Bangsamoro bill is not passed)

Session started at 10 am on Wednesday in a bid to finish the period of interpellation on the BBL before Congress adjourns session on June 10. 

But Rodriguez conceded Wednesday that the debate wouldn’t be finished, with about 25 lawmakers still lined up ask questions. About 10 representatives withdrew their questions after the House leadership agreed to remove the controversial opt-in provision

Debates will continue when lawmakers report back for work for President Benigno Aquino III’s last State of the Nation Address in July. Rodriguez said they hope to finish by September. 

Senate President Franklin Drilon is also eyeing an August or September passage for the BBL in the Senate. – Rappler.com

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