MANILA, Philippines (2nd UPDATE) – President Rodrigo Duterte told the bicameral conference committee to adopt the provision requiring the approval of the mother units before areas in Lanao del Norte and North Cotabato are included in the proposed Bangsamoro region.
In a tweet on Wednesday, July 11, Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque said the bicam would adopt the House version’s provision on the plebscite involving the Bangsamoro territory.
"Pleased to announce that the President facilated the passage of the BBL by convincing the two Houses of Congress to adopt the House version of the BBL providing that the 6 municipalities of Lanao del Norte and the 39 barangays of North Cotabato could vote to join the BBL territory in a referendum to be conducted on the mother territory of the areas involved,” said Roque.
During the meeting in Malacañang, Duterte also told lawmakers to consider jurisprudence in the Umali v Comelec case, which was brought up by House Majority Leader Rodolfo Fariñas.
“It was I who defended our version, citing the Constitution and the jurisprudence in Umali v. Comelec, where the Supreme Court ruled that in the matter of the conversion of Cabanatuan City into a highly urbanized City, the voters of the whole province of Nueva Ecija had to participate in its ratification as the province is directly affected by such conversion,” said Fariñas.
Senate Majority Leader Juan Miguel Zubiri said the legal experts agreed that the chamber's provision could be unconstitutional.
"And so as not to be struck down by the Supreme Court on that provision, the consensus was to adopt the house version on territory. As a good soldier, As that was the direction given then I submit," Zubiri told reporters.
Present in the meeting were Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdea, Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra, Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana, Philippine National Police chief Oscar Albayalde, Armed Forces of the Philippines Chief of Staff Carlito Galvez, Interior and Local Government Secretary Eduardo Año and Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process Jesus Dureza.
But what about the Bangsamoro Transition Commission, which has been pushing for the Senate's provision?
"We will have to manage their expectations and try to temper emotions as we are guided by the constitution in all the work we do as legislators," Zubiri said.
Adopting the House version means the following 6 Lanao del Norte towns and 39 North Cotabato barangays (villages) will have to go through two layers of approval should they wish to be included in the Bangsamoro region.
Lanao del Norte
The same towns and villages had voted to be included in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao during the 2001 plebiscite under Republic Act 9054. But they did not become a part of the ARMM as their mother units opposed their inclusion.
The Senate version – which retained the plebiscite provision the Bangsamoro Transition Committee prefers – automatically allows the Lanao del Norte towns and North Cotabato provinces to be included in the Bangsamoro once residents vote in favor of it in the plebiscite.
Lanao del Norte 1st District Representative Khalid Dimaporo, a bicam member who strongly opposes the inclusion to the Bangsamoro of the said villages and towns, is already set on questioning the “unconstitutional” BBL before the Supreme Court. – Rappler.com