House panel wants original Bangsamoro draft
MANILA, Philippines – The House ad-hoc committee on the proposed law for a new autonomous region in Mindanao on Wednesday, September 24, asked for the first draft of the Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) as submitted to Malacañang for review.
There were two main drafts that were produced in the process of crafting the law – the first one by the Bangsamoro Transition Commission (BTC), a body led by the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), composed of representatives of Bangsamoro sectors.
Even prior to the review, there were indications of difficulties in the BTC's crafting of the law. For instance, pressured by time constraints to beat their April deadline, an incomplete draft was sent to Malacañang two days before the full draft was submitted.
The government's main consideration in the review is to ensure that the draft law is constitutional.
It took the Office of the President 4 months to review the measure. When it was returned to the BTC, the MILF accused Malacañang of diluting the law.
The government and the MILF had to discuss the draft anew, further delaying its submission. It took at least 4 meetings, including a marathon 10-day workshop in Davao, before both sides finalized the draft.
At the first House ad-hoc committee hearing on the Bangsamoro Basic Law on Wednesday, Zamboanga Representative Celso Lobregat asked the panels to provide the committee with the draft submitted by BTC "in aid of legislation and for transparency."
"We're going to discuss this draft in relation to the Constitution. We need to look at the spirit and intent," Lobregat said.
Cagayan de Oro Representative Rufus Rodriguez, chair of the committee, blocked Lobregat's proposal.
"This chair is not inclined to invite drafts. Drafts are drafts. They are not subject to discussion. They are not the final form," he said.
Lobregat insisted on his motion. To resolve the situation, Rodriguez called for a viva voce vote but the ayes and nayes vote were too close to call. A nominal voting was called.
Voting 19-8, the committee approved Lobregat's motion asking the panels to submit the original BTC draft of the law, overruling Rodriguez.
Chief Peace Adviser Teresita Deles said the request will be relayed to the Office of the President.
The BTC version of the Bangsamoro Basic Law was not released to the public. After the MILF complained about the alleged dilution of the original draft, some civil society sectors called on Malacañang to release the draft.
Malacañang only released the final version of the law when it was submitted to Congress on September.
Deles said they are "reluctant" to submit the first draft.
"Certainly the request will be considered. Certainly our concerns will also be considered. I leave it up to the President. (The proposed law) was submitted under the auspices of the President. Our reluctance – let's say for now – is because we want to everyone to focus on this draft," she said, referring to the one submitted to Congress.
Deles said "past drafts were matters of contention; that's clear."
"That really was not agreed on. So, the process has been carried out. Now, we have an agreed upon version. We hope it's the one that is considered," she said.
Deles said the panels might ask for an executive session to keep to "mitigate or avoid any complications that we want to avoid."
But it will be up to the President to decide on what to do with the request, Deles said.
The proposed Bangsamoro Basic Law is based on the final peace agreement between the government and the MILF signed in March, aimed at ending decades of armed conflict in Mindanao.
It seeks to replace the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao with the Bangsamoro government – a parliamentary form of government designed to have wider political and fiscal autonomy. (READ: Peace brokers grilled: Does Bangsamoro create sub-state?)
It needs to be approved by Congress and through a plebiscite before it can become a law. Malacañang and Congress leaders have said they want to have the law passed by early 2015. – Rappler.com