Bicam to seek Duterte help to solve Bangsamoro plebiscite deadlock

Camille Elemia

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Bicam to seek Duterte help to solve Bangsamoro plebiscite deadlock
(UPDATED) The panel is set to go to Malacañang on Wednesday, July 11, as the House and Senate contingent could not agree on how to finalize the plebiscite in the proposed Bangsamoro Basic Law

MANILA, Philippines (UPDATED) – Members of the bicameral conference committee on the proposed Bangsamoro Basic Law are set to consult President Rodrigo Duterte in solving the deadlock on territory and plebiscite issues.

Isabela 1st District Representative Rodolfo Albano III said panel members are set to go to Malacañang on Wednesday, July 11.

“Pinaka-contentious diyan yung tingin ko yung sa plebiscite. ‘Yun di ko pa masabi sa inyo kasi dadalhin na sa Malacañang bukas. Ipapadecide kay Presidente… Ipapadecide kung anong gagawin. ‘Di ko pa alam eh,” Albano told reporters in an ambush interview on Tuesday, July 10.

(The most contentious issue there is the plebiscite. I can’t tell you the decision on that yet because it will be brought to Malacañang tomorrow. It will be up to the President to decide on what to. I still don’t know yet.)

Senate President Vicente Sotto III confirmed this. While Sotto is not part of the bicam, the leader of the chamber was also invited to join the meeting in Malacañang on Wednesday.

Senator Juan Edgardo Angara, member of the panel, said the meeting is scheduled after lunch.

“Yes. I was also called on to join the meeting before the National Security Council meeting tomorrow,” Sotto said in a text message.

The bicam is nowhere close to finalizing the controversial territory and plebiscite under the BBL, as district representatives strongly opposed the inclusion of 6 towns in Lanao del Norte and 39 barangays in North Cotabato in the Bangsamoro region.

Senate Majority Leader Juan Miguel Zubiri, bicam co-chairman, said it is a highly-charged issue, with district representatives treating it as a “personal” matter due to fears of loss of territory.

“I understand the positions of district congressmen because it’s a loss of territory for them and medyo mabigat ‘yan and malalim… Diyan medyo madugo (it’s a very serious and deep issue. That’s where it would be quite contentious)… For them, it’s historical,” Zubiri told reporters.

May uuwing luhaan on this issue (Someone will go home in tears on the issue). It’s just managing the outcome,” Zubiri said, as he admitted it is unlikely to reach a middleground, as territory is the most contentious issue.

The panel earlier shelved the issue to focus on less controversial provisions. Zubiri said they would decide on the matter on Wednesday.

Under the Senate and House versions, the following Lanao del Norte towns and North Cotabato barangays (villages) shall vote on whether or not they want to be included in the proposed Bangsamoro State:

  • Lanao del Norte
    • Baloi
    • Munai
    • Nunungan
    • Pantar
    • Tagoloan
    • Tangcal
  • North Cotabato:
    • Barangays Dunguan, Lower Mingading, Tapodoc in Aleosan town
    • Barangays Manarapan and Nasapian in Carmen town
    • Barangays Nanga-an, Simbuhay, and Sanggadong in Kabacan town
    • Barangays Damatulan, Kadigasan, Kadingilan, Kapinpilan, Kudarangan, Central Labas, Malingao, Mudseng, Nabalawag, Olandang, Sambulawan, and Tugal in Midsayap town
    • Barangays Lower Baguer, Balacayon, Buricain, Datu Binasing, Kadingilan, Matilac, Patot, and Lower Pangangkalan in Pigkawayan town
    • Barangays Bagoinged, Balatican, S. Balong, S. Balongis, Batulawan, Buliok, Gokotan, Kabasalan, Lagunde, Macabual, and Macasendeg in Pikit town

The two versions, however, differ on the mode of plebiscite. In the Senate version, the 39 villages and 6 municipalities will be automatically included in the Bangsamoro once their residents vote in favor of inclusion.

The House version wants the mother units of the said areas to decide on their fate. In the case of the 6 towns of Lanao del Norte, the whole province must vote whether or not they want the towns out of their jurisdiction. For the 39 barangays, the municipalities they belong to have the final say on their fate.

Residents of the 39 barangays and 6 municipalities had twice voted for its inclusion in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao, which the proposed BBL seeks to replace. Because of the double layer of voting needed, they have not succeeded. –

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Camille Elemia

Camille Elemia is a former multimedia reporter for Rappler. She covered media and disinformation, the Senate, the Office of the President, and politics.