Amended ARMM law may replace Bangsamoro bill – Marcos

Angela Casauay

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Amended ARMM law may replace Bangsamoro bill – Marcos
The Moro Islamic Liberation Front is inclined to reject this


MANILA, Philippines – What would be the content of Senator Ferdinand Marcos Jr’s substitute measure to the proposed Bangsamoro basic law (BBL)? 

Marcos, chair of the Senate local government committee, said he is mulling amending the organic act on the present Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) as an alternative to the Bangsamoro bill. 

The senator will hold a final committee hearing on the BBL on Tuesday, June 9. He will use Congress’ month-long break to craft a new bill after rejecting the original one for allegedly being unconstitutional and failing to be inclusive.

“I think there are systemic weaknesses in the ARMM system. So what do we do? We fix it. There’s no need to throw out the baby with the bath water, as they say. We look at the system, see where the failings are, the weaknesses are, and fix those,” Marcos said in a statement. 

Marcos said amendments introduced to the ARMM law in 2001 after a peace deal was signed between the Ramos government and rebel group Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) were “a step towards the right direction.”

The MNLF, however, boycotted the 2001 plebiscite after the group accused the government of passing a law that weakened the autonomous region already in place. 

The Bangsamoro bill implements the peace deal between the government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF). The accord was signed after 17 years of negotiations that spanned 4 administrations. 

The MILF broke away from the MNLF at the height of the Mindanao conflict in the seventies due to leadership differences. The Bangsamoro bill also incorporates the unimplemented aspects of the government-MNLF peace deal. 

MILF position

Marcos said amending the ARMM would be an easy way to address the issues on the bill’s constitutionality.  

The proposed BBL seeks to entrench a unique parliamentary form of autonomous government to replace the current ARMM – a set-up that some legal experts say is against the Constitution. The Philippines has a unitary presidential system. 

Other constitutional experts, meanwhile, argue that the Constitution allows for such a set-up since the Constitution only states that an autonomous region shall have legislative and executives branches, which are both elective. 

The House ad hoc committee version of the bill retained the parliamentary form for the Bangsamoro. 

Another major difference between the ARMM and the proposed Bangsamoro are provisions on fiscal autonomy. The BBL provides for a block grant scheme similar to the internal revenue allotment of local government units.

In a forum in Manila on Monday, MILF chief negotiator reiterated the rebel group’s position that it stands by the original draft but is open to amendments and enhancements. 

Asked if the MILF will accept a “diluted” bill, Iqbal said they will not accept a Bangsamoro bill that results in weaker autonomy. (Bangsamoro bill: 7 issues for PH, MILF to resolve)

“The ARMM was offered to us 3 times. If it is the same or worse, lower than that then what is the sense of the MILF accepting it?” Iqbal said. 

With versions of the BBL from the House and the Senate shaping up to be poles apart from each other, Iqbal said the MILF is still optimistic that the law will be passed despite the tight timeline. 

After all, there will still be a bicameral conference committee to resolve the conflicting versions of the bill, Iqbal said. –

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