House creates supercommittee to tackle Bangsamoro bill

Angela Casauay
House creates supercommittee to tackle Bangsamoro bill
Speaker Feliciano Belmonte Jr and Majority Leader Neptali Gonzales II file House Resolution 1462 creating an ad hoc committee for the proposed Bangsamoro Basic Law

MANILA, Philippines – On the same day President Benigno Aquino III confirmed that the proposed law creating a new autonomous region in Mindanao is ready for submission to Congress, the House of Representatives moved to activate an ad-hoc committee that will tackle the measure.

On Monday, September 8, Speaker Feliciano Belmonte Jr and Majority Leader Neptali Gonzales II filed House Resolution No. 1462, which creates a supercommittee that will be responsible for deliberations on the draft Bangsamoro Basic Law, a priority measure of Aquino.

House bodies that will compose the ad hoc committee include those on local government; Mindanao affairs; national defense and security; and peace, reconciliation and unity.  

Cagayan de Oro Representative Rufus Rodriguez is being eyed to head the supercommittee but no official announcement has been made yet.  

The Bangsamoro Basic Law provides a legal framework for the final peace accord between the government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) signed in March that aims to end 4 decades of armed struggle in Mindanao. (READ: The Bangsamoro peace deal at a glance)

President Benigno Aquino III himself will submit the urgent measure to Senate President Franklin Drilon and Speaker Feliciano Belmonte Jr in Malacañang on Wednesday, September 10, in the presence of peace panels from the MILF and the government. 

Under the comprehensive peace pact, the MILF and the government agreed to entrench a new autonomous government with greater political and fiscal powers than the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao, which it will replace. 

The proposed Bangsamoro government is designed to be parliamentary or ministerial in form, with members elected by the people. These members will in turn elect a chief minister among themselves. 

It is also envisioned to enjoy block grants, which means its appropriations will be automatically transmitted by the national government, much like the Internal Revenue Allotment for local government units. 

In exchange for the creation of a reformed government in Mindanao, the MILF agreed to decommission a specific number of their firearms in certain timeframes as political commitments, including the passage of the basic law, are achieved. Estimates on the number of firearms have yet to be released by authorities. 

At the Senate, meanwhile, Drilon vowed to act on the Bangsamoro bill as soon as possible. 

In an interview with radio DZRH, Drilon said the Senate hopes to pass the basic law by March 2015. 

Once the Bangsamoro Basic Law hurdles Congress, a plebiscite will be conducted in identified areas. Residents of legal age will vote to approve or reject the law, as well vote for their areas’ inclusion in the proposed region.

The ARMM will then be deemed abolished and the MILF-led Bangsamoro Transition Authority will take over until the election of the first set of Bangsamoro officials in 2016.

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