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Pragmatic mind

The number of hearings and resource persons speaks for itself. Contrary to the accusation that I was delaying the BBL. I, in fact, focused on it and we even worked during the recess of the Senate.

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During deliberations on the Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) in 2015 under his committee on local government, Senator Bongbong Marcos put forward a proposal that would have been far less divisive, but will still produce the same result of granting Muslim autonomy based on the Constitution.

His suggestion was to cut the chase and just amend the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) Law as all of the law’s provisions are compliant with the Constitution.

As expected President Noynoy Aquino, his allies in both chambers of Congress, and the ranking officials of the rebel group beneficiary of the BBL, the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), vigorously opposed the Marcos proposal.

It would have denied them the pomp of having originated a new law providing the preferred sub-state.

Marcos and most of the independent senators then proceeded to recraft the law submitted by the Palace to cover the sentiment of most of those who will be affected by the creation of the Bangsamoro region.

Marcos’ substitute bill carried the applicable advocacies, positions, and proposals of all the stakeholders from the 12 public hearings and one briefing, which started more than a year earlier on 23 September 2014.

The integrity of the Marcos version of the bill was also backed by two separate hearings conducted by the Senate committee on constitutional amendments and revision of codes chaired by Sen. Miriam Defensor-Santiago.

The views of the Moro National Liberation Front, Sultanate of Sulu, indigenous people, religious groups, youth groups, legal luminaries, labor and peasant groups, local government units, and other concerned organizations were incorporated in the substitute bill.

At that time, the rampaging yellow horde backing Aquino accused Marcos of dragging his feet to frustrate Aquino’s dream of having a Mindanao peace as his legacy.

“ The number of hearings and resource persons speak(s) for (itself). Contrary to the accusation that I was delaying the BBL. I, in fact, focused on it and we even worked during the recess (of the Senate). I’m confident that I will be vindicated by my proposed measure,” Marcos said.

It was even Marcos who persisted for his colleagues to sign the bill amid the reluctance of the Aquino allies who wanted to incorporate their inputs that aligns with the wishes of the Palace.

The 100-page bill was signed by 17 senators including Marcos that reached plenary debates.

MILF then said it will accept only a BBL that will not contain major revisions from the original bill submitted by the Palace to Congress.
The statement of Jaafar thus implied that the MILF will join the democratic process including the elections if it gets what it wanted which is what it calls an “undiluted” BBL.

Several provisions including the power and wealth sharing percentages that Noynoy’s negotiators generously allowed the MILF were considered non-negotiables with the MILF but are patently unconstitutional according to legal experts.

The substitute bill, however, makes references to existing laws such as the Local Government Code to introduce modifications to what the MILF would get when the Bangsamoro autonomous region is created.

The substitute bill also likely clipped most of the powers of the Bangsamoro to preclude its being a sub-state and subsume it under the Local Government Code as an autonomous region not too different from ARMM.

Events that followed primarily the massacre of the 44 Special Action Force policemen at the hands of MILF and other insurgent and armed militia groups on 25 January 2015 halted all discussions on the BBL.

Of course, in the end, the largely unconstitutional BBL was not allowed to be enacted and later on became the Bangsamoro Organic Law passed under the administration of President Rodrigo Duterte, which was essentially the same ARMM Law with some revisions.

Had Marcos’ proposal been carried, it would have saved resources and a lot of pain in the national psyche.

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