Final version of BBL must pass ‘test of constitutionality,’ say bicam members

Mara Cepeda

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Final version of BBL must pass ‘test of constitutionality,’ say bicam members
Senate President Vicente Sotto III says the proposed Bangsamoro Basic Law's constitutional issues must be resolved to avoid a scenario where the Supreme Court will later deem it unconstitutional

MANILA, Philippines – Lawmakers forming the bicameral conference committee on the proposed Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) gave assurances Monday, July 9, they would produce a final version that is constitutional.

Senate Majority Leader Miguel Zubiri and House Majority Leader Rodolfo Fariñas said this on Monday, July 9, at the start of their week-long bicam meetings on the BBL. (READ: Difficult work ahead to reconcile Senate, House versions of BBL)

“We will have to ensure that anything that we do and everything that we do will be compliant to the Constitution because, surely, this will be challenged. So it is our task to see to it that whatever we will agree [on] and come up here will have to pass the test of constitutionality,” said Fariñas.

Zubiri, who also chairs the bicameral conference committee on the BBL, gave the same sentiments: “In performing our duties, let the following be our guideposts: Constitutionality – the Constitution being the supreme law of the land sets both the latitude and delimitations of what we can incorporate in this basic law,” said Zubiri. 

The senator said the bicam would also “give the widest latitude” in reconciling the House and Senate versions of the BBL “within the limits set by the Constitution and other laws.” 

Zubiri said the bicam must also ensure the finalized version of the BBL would be acceptable to the Bangsamoro people and help bring about peace and development in the region. (READ: Final version of BBL holds fate of Mindanao peace process

“This law must correct the injustices and prejudices against our Muslim brethren. It must accord them equal respect and opportunity in order to advance in life,” he said.  

Questions have been raised against the possible constitutional violations of the BBL, including its proposed parliamentary system, implementation of Shariah laws, and giving cities and provinces sharing a common border with the Bangsamoro to join the plebiscite, among others.

The House and Senate already removed several provisions in the BBL version first crafted by the Bangsamoro Transition Commission. But the Moro Islamic Liberation Front and other stakeholders want these provisions retained. 

Senate President Vicente Sotto III suggested the constitutional issues must be tackled first during the bicam. The other contentious and controversials provisions can be treshed out later in the week.

Basta importante, ’yong mga constitutional issues, ma-resolve. Sapagkat ’yon ’yong kinakabahan tayo na baka pumasa man sa amin, i-ratify man namin, i-question sa Supreme Court, nabaril. Mahirap naman,” he said. 

(What’s important is for the constitutional issues to be resolved. That’s the part we are nervous about, because even if the bill gets our approval and we ratify it, the Supreme Court may shoot it down. That’s a problem.)

The bicam is being held closed-doors at the Grand Ballroom A of Crowne Plaza Manila Galleria. Reporters were briefly allowed to enter the hall to listen to the opening statements on Monday. –

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Mara Cepeda

Mara Cepeda specializes in stories about politics and local governance. She covers the Office of the Vice President, the Senate, and the Philippine opposition. She is a 2021 fellow of the Asia Journalism Fellowship and the Reham al-Farra Memorial Journalism Fellowship of the UN. Got tips? Email her at or tweet @maracepeda.