Con-Com members point out challenges for BBL with federal shift

Pia Ranada

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Con-Com members point out challenges for BBL with federal shift
MILF officials maintain that the Bangsamoro Basic Law should be passed before the ratification of a new federal constitution

MANILA, Philippines – Consultative Committee (Con-Com) members pointed out provisions in the Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) that could face challenges should the country ratify a federal constitution.

They relayed this to members of the Bangsamoro Transition Commission (BTC) during the Con-Com’s meeting on Tuesday, March 13. 

The BTC members, which included officials of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), presented the draft BBL they had submitted to President Rodrigo Duterte.

Con-Com Chairman Reynato Puno pointed out that the BBL draft was crafted based on the Philippines having a unitary system of government. He asked the BTC members if they could craft a second BBL draft, one with a federal Philippine constitution in mind.

“Will there be redesigning of this Bangsamoro Law draft? There will be difficulties and some of them have been raised by Senator Pimentel. But I guess these difficulties somehow will not arise if the draft will be redesigned to conform with a federal form of government,” said Puno.

MILF vice chairman Ghazali Jaafar responded, saying it is not yet certain if the Philippines will succeed in shifting to a federal system.

“Which constitution are we going to suit because right now there is a move to change the unitary presidential government to federal and really we don’t know whether the move to a federal government will succeed or…not,” he told the committee.

“Had we known that the move for federalism will succeed then probably we can write a law which can suit that law on federalism,” he added.

Con-Com member and former Senate president Aquilino Pimentel Jr had earlier questioned the parliamentary form of government proposed in the BBL. 

In the draft law, the people of Bangsamoro will elect members of parliament who will then choose among them the chief minister and deputy minister.

Pimentel said this violates the 1987 Constitution which states leaders should be directly elected by the people. 

The Con-Com had previously agreed on proposing a presidential-federal system of government in which the Philippine president and vice president will be directly elected by citizens.

Which will yield?

Con-Com member and former military man Ferdinand Bocobo asked which proposal should conform to which – the BBL or the federal constitution?

“Shall you follow our lead or will we have to follow our lead?” he asked the body.

Jaafar maintained that the BTC, MILF, Moro National Liberation Front all prefer for the BBL to be passed before the ratification of a new constitution.

“In terms of sequencing, our view and our stance is that the passage of the BBL should come first,” he said.

The MILF leader emphasized the urgency of passing the BBL, which he called an “instrument of peace” greatly desired by Muslims in Mindanao.

“Although we consider it must conform to the law of the land but uppermost is the mission to solve the political issue in the Muslim area in the Philippines,” said Jaafar.

MILF peace panel chairman Mohagher Iqbal asserted that the BBL must be passed first as this was the “personal commitment of President Duterte” and since it would be relatively easier to do.

“This is easier to pass compared to changing the system of government,” he said.

After the meeting, he told media that Puno’s suggestion for the BTC to submit a second BBL draft conforming to a federal government is “not practical.”

He pointed out that the BBL draft is already with Congress and that the BTC was only confined to drafting one BBL document by Duterte’s executive order. 

However, he said the BTC and MILF would “continue to engage” with the Con-Com by sending recommendations for Charter Change through Malacañang. 

Jaafar meanwhile said if the BBL is passed and a federal constitution is ratified after, the Bangsamoro entity can be subsumed under the new charter as a state. –

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Pia Ranada

Pia Ranada is Rappler’s Community Lead, in charge of linking our journalism with communities for impact.