Bicam draft ‘not a watered-down BBL,’ says BTC chair Jaafar

Mara Cepeda

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Bicam draft ‘not a watered-down BBL,’ says BTC chair Jaafar
Bangsamoro Transition Commission chair Ghazali Jaafar says they understand President Rodrigo Duterte's decision to endorse the provision requiring the approval of the mother units before areas in Lanao del Norte and North Cotabato can join the Bangsamoro

MANILA, Philippines – The Bangsamoro Transition Commission (BTC) believes the current draft of the proposed Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) being tackled by the bicameral conference committee is not a watered-down version of their original proposal. 

BTC chairman and Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) vice chairman Ghazali Jaafar told this to reporters on Thursday, July 12, a day after BTC and MILF members met with President Rodrigo Duterte in Malacañang. 

Duterte met with them first before meeting with the bicam on Wednesday, July 11, to solve the deadlock on the Bangsamoro plebiscite.

“No, we don’t consider this as a watered-down BBL…. The fact is that, the BBL now as we see it, unless it is changed drastically, it is no longer ARMM minus. It is ARMM plus plus plus,” said Jaafar.

He clarified, however, that they are hoping the bicam would make good on its promise to retain provisions in the BBL that would give the Bangsamoro the same rights that the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) is currently enjoying.

Jaafar said the BTC was satisfied with the outcome of their meeting with Duterte, whom he said they “love” and “respect” as he is a “brother from Mindanao.”

This is despite Duterte telling the bicam to adopt the House provision requiring the approval of the mother units before areas in Lanao del Norte and North Cotabato are included in the proposed Bangsamoro region. 

The BTC originally wanted to do away with the mother units’ approval to make it easier for 6 Lanao del Norte towns and 39 North Cotabato barangays to join the Bangsamoro.

Jaafar said they understood Duterte’s decision, which was guided by the constitutionality of getting the approval of a mother unit when it comes to territorial changes. (READ: Lanao del Norte’s Dimaporo ready to question an unconstitutional BBL)

“Naniniwala kami doon sa reason ng mahal naming Pangulo kung bakit kinakailangang itong dadaan sa double majority. By double majority, tatanong niya rin ‘yung botante ng entire province of Lanao del Norte,” said Jaafar.

(We believe the reason of our beloved President why this has to go through the double majority. By double majority, that means the views of the voters from the entire province of Lanao del Norte would also be considered.)

The same areas in Lanao del Norte and North Cotabato had voted to join the ARMM during the 2001 plebiscite under Republic Act No. 9054. But they did not become part of the ARMM as their mother units opposed their inclusion.

BTC ‘respects’ lawmaking process

Jaafar said Duterte had committed to back the other requests of the BTC, including giving powers to the Bangsamoro chief minister to appoint the regional police director as well as jurisdiction over Bangsamoro waters.

Senate Majority Leader Juan Miguel Zubiri, chairman of the bicam, said the lawmakers already agreed with the Bangsamoro chief minister provision, with the Bangsamoro’s police and military still falling under the Philippine National Police and Armed Forces of the Philippines, respectively. 

The Bangsamoro waters, however, remains a contentious issue that the bicam has yet to resolve. (READ: How heightened emotions, stress define bicam on proposed BBL)

Meanwhile, Jaafar confirmed Zubiri’s statement that the BTC and the MILF were insulted when the bicam adopted a provision prohibiting the Bangsamoro from allocating funds for firearms, ammunition, and explosives.  

Jaafar explained there would be no need for them to wage war on the government once the Bangsamoro region has been created.  

“But to me, the leadership ng MILF, ang philosophy namin diyan, kung solved na ‘yung problema, if the Bangsamoro is settled, ‘di na kailangan, bakit pa kami lalaban? Eh nakamit na namin, nakuha na namin ang gusto naming makuha,” he said. 

(But for me and the leadership of the MILF, the philosophy we follow there is that if the problem has been solved already, if the Bangsamoro is settled, why would we fight? We would have already achieved what we wanted.)

Still, Jaafar said they “recognize and respect the process in lawmaking.” But he said they will continue watching over the bicam proceedings to make sure the proposed BBL will be a version satisfactory to the needs of the Moro people. –

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Mara Cepeda

Mara Cepeda specializes in stories about politics and local governance. She covers the Office of the Vice President, the Senate, and the Philippine opposition. She is a 2021 fellow of the Asia Journalism Fellowship and the Reham al-Farra Memorial Journalism Fellowship of the UN. Got tips? Email her at or tweet @maracepeda.