Senate set to cancel 2 Bangsamoro law provisions

Angela Casauay

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Senate set to cancel 2 Bangsamoro law provisions
Senator Ferdinand Marcos Jr on the block grant scheme for the Bangsamoro: Why are we rewarding rebellion?

MANILA, Philippines – The Senate is inclined to delete two provisions in the proposed Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) due to questions over their constitutionality, Senator Ferdinand Marcos Jr said Monday, April 13.

Marcos told reporters that the Senate committee on local government, which he chairs, will delete provisions providing for autonomous branches of constitutional bodies in the Bangsamoro, including the Commission on Audit, Civil Service Commission, the Commission on Elections, and the Ombudsman. 

The “question of the police” body in the Bangsamoro will also be scrutinized, Marcos said in a press conference after the resumption of the Senate hearing on the BBL.

Under the BBL, the operational control of the local police will be elevated to the regional government. It will continue to be part of the Philippine National Police, according to the peace panels. In the present set-up, the operational control of the local police is under the head of the local government unit. 

These two provisions are also among the 8 BBL provisions that the House of Representatives is set to delete or amend, according to Cagayan de Oro 2nd District Representative Rufus Rodriguez.

The BBL implements the peace accord between the government and rebel group Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF). The panels of both sides maintain that the provisions in question are constitutional. 

‘Why reward rebellion?’ 

Another thorny issue for Marcos is the proposal for a block grant or an automatic appropriation to be awarded to the Bangsamoro every year. 

Under the BBL, the Bangsamoro government will receive a block grant of 4% of the 60% share of the national government in the total internal revenue allotment (IRA). This means the Bangsamoro will get 2.4% of the total revenue collection. This will be a separate amount from the internal revenue allotment (IRA) for local government units (LGUs).

The block grant is estimated to amount to P27 billion in the first year of the Bangsamoro government’s operation. 

The new autonomous government will also receive a P1-billion transition fund and a P7-billion transition fund for the first year of operation.  

The Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process earlier denied reports that the Bangsamoro will get P75 billion under the BBL. Earlier estimates of P75 billion included the IRA for LGUs and funds from national agencies awarded to regional branches. The LGU funds will remain untouched under the BBL, in accordance with existing laws.  

Marcos issued strong words against the proposal, saying that the Senate is set to decrease the amount to place it in the same level as other LGUs. 

“Babawasan, para naman maging kasama ng ibang LGU. Because parang you are rewarding rebellion eh. Sinasabi kung manggiyera kayo, babayaran namin kayo ng malaki at bibigyan kayo ng maraming advantage,” Marcos said.

(We will decrease, to put it in the same level as LGUs. Because it is like you are rewarding rebellion. It’s like saying, if you wage war, we will pay you a huge sum and give your lots of advantage.)

“Kaya ang binibiro ko, ihihiwalay ko na ang Ilocano Nation para meron din kaming P75 billion a year di ba? Kahit biro, that is the thinking, di ba? Why are you rewarding? And the other LGUs are saying that hindi naman siguro, hindi naman dapat na hindi pantay-pantay,” Marcos added.

(That’s why I was joking, we should separate the Ilocation Nation so we have P75 billion a year, right? Even if it’s a joke, that is the thinking, right? Why are you rewarding? And the other LGUs are saying, that shouldn’t be the case, that others are getting more.)

Marcos said the issue might be as simple as providing the necessary services to the region.

He said that instead of giving the lump sum, just allocate the fund to development programs. 

“I think that is more important, just as important as the peace agreements, as the concept of self determination, is that good service is provided by the government to Mindanao,” Marcos said. 

Marcos will also insist on inserting a provision in the BBL that the Bangsamoro government will continue to pledge allegiance to the Republic of the Philippines and that it will not be used as a first step for secession. 

World Bank report

Asked to comment on a World Bank study, which said that the passage of the BBL would not assure lasting peace in Mindanao, Marcos said he has raised the same issue many times, especially when it comes to the continued presence of other armed groups aside from the MILF. 

Marcos said it might be time to take a look back at what he said was the “only peace agreement that was successful” – the 1976 Tripoli Agreement between the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) and the regime of the senator’s father, Ferdinand Marcos. It was signed in Libya under the auspices of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation. 

“And the Tripoli Agreement, hostilities stopped. But it’s not just because there was signing on two regions that were autonomous but also because the central government had development programs in Mindanao. And if you will look at our history books at the time, together with the signing of the Tripoli Agreement, there was massive infrastructure development in Mindanao,” Marcos said.  

The decades-old war in Mindanao began under the Marcos administration. Close to 40 years since the signing of the Tripoli Agreement, Mindanao continues to lag behind regions in terms of gross domestic production.  

Monday marked the first time since the Senate resumed hearings on the proposed Bangsamoro law after the Mamasapano tragedy. 

Marcos said he will hold one more hearing to discuss the ceasefire mechanisms between the government and the MILF. Hearings will also be held in Jolo and Zamboanga before the committee submits its final report on the BBL. –


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