Noy BBL deal junked

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CAB bogs down bicam

“Most of the provisions of the BTC-BBL were actually taken verbatim from the CAB.”

The sticking point in the approval of the Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) that took the intercession of President Duterte and the convening of the Cabinet’s security cluster to resolve were illegal provisions crafted by the previous administration of President Benigno Aquino III.

The contentious provisions on territorial jurisdiction were contained in the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro (CAB) which was signed between Aquino and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) and was contained in the Senate version that government legal advisers declared as unconstitutional.

It was eventually stricken out as a result and it was agreed at the meeting that the House BBL version will prevail.

“We got stuck with this one last contentious issue. It was too big for us to make a decision because of its many implications on security. And, therefore, we took it to Malacañang to get their opinion and their opinion was it’s unconstitutional if we do not get the mother units (provinces) to vote for these geographic areas,” Senate Majority Floor Leader Juan Miguel Zubiri, who heads the Senate contingent deliberating on the BBL, said.

Members of the bicameral committee seeking to reconcile the Senate and House versions of the BBL, including Zubiri, met with President Duterte and other top Cabinet officials Wednesday night.

The territorial jurisdiction provision in the CAB involved the addition of six towns and 39 barangays in Lanao del Norte and North Cotabato to the original areas covered by the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM).

House members, particularly those who stand to lose territories, opposed the provision and apparently prevailed.

Zubiri said the Senate’s BBL version sought to honor the government’s commitment with the MILF under the CAB which was the result of years of peace negotiations.

“That was their (legal luminaries) conclusion that coming up with the elections (plebiscite) only limiting it to certain municipalities and barangays without asking the mother units (mother province/town) is unconstitutional,” Zubiri said.

“So the decision was not to give false hopes. Because if you give false hope in passing it, the provisions will be challenged before the Supreme Court and it will be shut down like the MoA-AD,” he added.

As a “good soldier,” Zubiri said he respected the decision of the legal experts.

MoA-AD is the Memorandum of Agreement on Ancestral Domain signed under the Arroyo administration and the MILF in 2008 but was declared by the High Tribunal as unconstitutional–sparking widespread MILF atrocities in Maguindanao, Cotabao and Sarangani provinces.

The atrocities resulted in the collapse of the peace negotiations between the government and the MILF.

Plebiscite question

There was also the issue on the determination of the results of the plebiscite either on the basis of the majority in the province or majority in municipalities. The two issues bogged down the bicameral committee consultations during the past three days.

“So, while it is early we must advise the MILF that this is the situation, this is a constitutional requirement and therefore their expectations should be managed,” Zubiri said.

When former President Aquino assumed office in 2010, the government resumed the peace process with the MILF and eventually struck a peace agreement that led to the signing of CAB.

Zubiri stressed that he was pushing what was stipulated in CAB signed in March 2014 at Malacanang with former Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak in attendance.

He said most of the provisions of the BBL, approved by the MILF-led Bangsamoro Transition Commission (BTC), were adopted from the CAB.

“I was really pushing it because this is part of the CAB…most of the provisions of the BTC-BBL were actually taken verbatim from the CAB. So this was a document, a very thick document that government signed with the MILF for the cessation of hostilities,” Zubiri said.

Zubiri added among the legal luminaries at the Wednesday meeting in Malacanag were Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdea, Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra and Secretary Jesus Dureza of the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process (OPAPP).

Also present were members of the National Security Council, including Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana and Interior and Local Government Secretary Eduardo Ano.

Dureza should step in

Zubiri said he will ask the OPAPP to start a dialogue with the MILF about the deleted CAB provisions.

“We’re hoping that Secretary Jess (Dureza of OPAPP) can step up…talk to them (MILF),” Zubiri said.

Zubiri added he had yet to talk with the MILF leaders, who attended the bicameral committee consultations led by MILF Chairman Al Haj Murad Ibrahim, Vice Chairman for Political Affairs Ghadzali Jaafar and Bangsamoro Transition Commission chief and MILF chief negotiator Mohagher Iqbal.

“That’s why I believe OPAPP is going to try to manage expectations and temper emotions by dialoguing with the MILF and the different stakeholders,” Zubiri said.

Zubiri is apparently trying to prevent the possible outbreak of violence in protest to the non-approval of the MILF proposed territorial jurisdiction and plebiscite under the CAB.

“The message is very loud and clear from that meeting. They feel that it’s unconstitutional so let’s not force it. I also don’t like to make a promise which I cannot fulfill or will later get struck down. So I hope they understand. We’re asking for their (MILF) understanding,” Zubiri said.

AFP, PNP ready

Zubiri added members of the government security cluster have expressed readiness to address security concerns that may arise as a result of the CAB’s deletion.

Zubiri said Lorenzana and Año committed the readiness of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP), under chief of staff Gen. Carlito Galvez Jr. and the Philippine National Police (PNP), led by Director General Oscar Albayalde, to any adverse reaction from rebel groups.

The senator said security officials cited the ongoing implementation of martial law in Mindanao as a deterrent to a possible outbreak of violence.

“They said ‘we’re on martial law in Mindanao. So we’ve been in double red alert since the time we extended martial law.’ So, they’re prepared for all inevitable actions that may happen with the passage of the BBL,” Zubiri said.