Palace to give Congress free hand on BBL

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CONGRESS will have a free hand on the proposed Bangsamoro law, which needs to be created from separate drafts submitted by warring Moro factions, Peace Process Secretary Jesus Dureza said Tuesday.

Unlike the previous administration, which asked Congress to approve a Palace-drafted Bangsamoro Basic Law, the Palace would rely on lawmakers to shape the law creating the Bangsamoro region, which is the basis for a peace agreement with Muslim rebels and the framework for President Rodrigo Duterte’s federal government, Dureza said.

“You cannot preempt a department of government that has the full mandate to propose a bill. 

The one which has power over that is the House of Representatives [and the Senate.] It’s not the work of the executive department,” Dureza said.

“The President should come in only if both [chambers of Congress] pass a law,” he added.

The Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF)-backed Bangsamoro Transition Commission is set to submit its version of the BBL on July 17, but Dureza said he hopes the Moro National Liberation Front under Nur Misuari can submit its draft in time for Congress to consider both when it drafts the final bill.

When passed, the BBL will be the product of the years-long peace negotiations between the government and the MILF as part of the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro, which was signed by the government and the MILF in March 2014.

A Bangsamoro political entity will be the result of the Congress-backed bill, which will then be up for President Duterte’s consideration.

Earlier, government implementing panel chief for the Bangsamoro accords Irene Santiago said the new draft BBL was based on the original BBL but there were some changes to it that made it “better.”

“The Bangsamoro Transition Commission used the BBL as the basic document for the draft that they made… I think this is even a better version of the BBL. There are some provisions, for example, on transition that are very, very practical,” she said.

ON THE TRIGGER. MNLF commander Datu Wahib Kali (left) shows one of their high-powered firearms, a modified Browning M2 50 cal. machine gun, in Camp Aripin Sokor, Sultan Kudarat, Maguindanao, to help them crush local criminals who attacked their city on May 23. Mark Navales

“I found that everybody was very pleased with the draft that they made.”

Dureza expressed confidence that the converged Bangsamoro Law will surpass the challenges posed by the old BBL in the previous administration.

“We are confident that the BTC has taken into account the failures in the past, learnings in the past,” he said.

Dureza said the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process will recommend the draft submitted by the BTC be turned over by the President to Congress and certify it as urgent.

“As far as OPAPP is concerned, our recommendation is that as soon as the President receives it, he will turn it over to the Speaker of the House and the Senate President. We will also recommend that it will be certified as an urgent bill,” Dureza said.

“But that’s just our recommendation. You know very well the President makes the final call,” he added.

On Nov. 7, 2016, President Duterte signed an executive order that expanded the BTC membership from 15 to 21 that will have 10 government-appointed members and 11, including the chairperson, from the MILF.

On Feb. 10, 2017, OPAPP announced the 21 members of the expanded BTC that will draft an “inclusive” version of the earlier BBL that failed to pass Congress in the Aquino administration.

The expanded BTC was expected to submit the draft of the new enabling law to Congress this July in time for Duterte’s second State of the Nation Address and the resumption of session of Congress. 

Enactment of the BBL will create a new political entity that will replace the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao.

The proposed Bangsamoro territory will have greater autonomy than the present ARMM but will remain part of the Republic of the Philippines. With PNA

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