The House of Representatives on Tuesday formally began plenary debates on the proposed Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) as legislators try to meet their May 30 deadline for the bill’s passage.
In her sponsorship speech, Deputy Speaker Bai Sandra Sema said the proposed measure would be the “epitome of real autonomy” in the country, and would serve as the “precursor” of the regional autonomy or federal states within a federal system of government in the future.
Sema said the deliberation of the legislative measure falls in the Muslim holy month of Ramadan highlighted by a “hallmark of peace”.
“In this holy month of Ramadan, the Bangsamoro people await the dawning of peace in the Moroland. As we humble ourselves by abstaining from food and water during daylight for 30 days during this holy month of Ramadan, may our brothers and sisters pray with us for peace in our country,” Sema said.
Tawi-Tawi Rep. Ruby Sahali, head of the special committee on peace, reconciliation, and unity, said the passage of the bill would be an “affirmative action” to correct centuries of neglect and injustice against the people in Mindanao.
“A vote for the Bangsamoro Bill is not only a vote for the Bangsamoro people. It is a vote for the entire nation, a vote for the Filipino people, regardless of religion, culture, and political persuasion,” Sahali said.
“The success of the Bangsamoro is the success of the Filipino people, because, we, the Bangsamoro people, are indispensable part of our national identity,” she added.
Lanao del Sur Rep. Mauyag Papandayan Jr., chairman of the committee on Muslim affairs, appealed to his colleagues to approve the BBL as a solution to the problem of a national and cultural divide that plagued the country for more than four centuries.
Papandayan said that while the bill has contentious provisions, these should not be a deterrent since there would be a period of amendments to consider these concerns.
“What is on hand is not just any proposed law. It is so important, that the decisions we shall take on this proposed measure will be the equivalent of life and death, literally and figuratively speaking,” he said.
“Its approval will equate into life, into hope finally realized for the Muslim people after centuries of injustice. Its disapproval will mean death — death to unity, to peace, and to reconciliation,” he added.
President Rodrigo R. Duterte has already certified the bill as urgent.
House Bill No. 6475, authored by Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez, provides for the BBL and seeks to abolish the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM).
The bill is based on the proposal submitted by the Bangsamoro Transition Commission (BTC) to Duterte.
It aims to establish a political entity, provide for its basic structure of government in recognition of the justness and legitimacy of the cause of the Bangsamoro people and their aspiration to chart their political future through a democratic process that will secure their identity and posterity and allow for a meaningful self-governance.
Under the bill, the Bangsamoro territory shall remain a part of the Philippines.
The Bangsamoro territory shall be composed of 1) the present geographical area of the ARMM; 2) the municipalities of Baloi, Munai, Nunungan, Pantar, Tagolan and Tangkal in the province of Lanao del Norte and all other barangays in the municipalities of Kabacan, Carmen, Aleosan, Pigkawayan, Pikit, and Midsayap that voted for inclusion in the ARMM during the 2001 plebiscite; 3) the cities of Cotabato and Isabela; and 4) all other contiguous areas where there is resolution of the local government unit or a petition of at least 10 percent of the registered voters in the area asking for their inclusion at least two months prior to the conduct of the ratification of the Basic Law and the process of delimitation of the Bangsamoro.
The measure also retains the central government’s power and control over defense and external issues.
The central government shall create a Bangsamoro Military Command of the Armed Forces of the Philippines for the Bangsamoro, which shall be organized, maintained, and utilized in accordance with national laws.
A Bangsamoro Police, under the Philippine National Police, shall also be created for law enforcement and maintenance of peace and order in the Bangsamoro. (PNA)