MANILA, Philippines - Malacañang is optimistic that Congress will pass the new proposed Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) despite claims that it still contains contentious provisions from the previous draft.
In Zamboanga City, 1st District Rep. Celso Lobregat was one of those who questioned some of the provisions as he obtained a copy of the 114-page draft BBL submitted by the Bangsamoro Transition Commission (BTC) last July 17 to the Office of the President.
The BBL, the measure that would implement the 2014 peace deal between the government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), was bypassed by the previous Congress in the wake of claims that some of its provisions were unconstitutional.
The passage of the bill, one of the priorities of the Aquino administration, was also hampered by the backlash over the Mamasapano clash, which left 44 police commandos dead in January 2015.
The BBL would have created a new Bangsamoro political entity in Mindanao with greater economic and political powers.
Presidential spokesman Ernesto Abella believes lawmakers will agree with the provisions of the new draft BBL.
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“I believe circumstances have changed in the Senate. And Congress understands the situation at hand on the ground. And I believe that they will concur,” he said in a press briefing at Malacañang yesterday.
Among the provisions being questioned is the one that permits contiguous areas with a resolution from local governments or petitions by at least 10 percent of registered voters to join the plebiscite on the new Bangsamoro entity.
Another provision being challenged by critics is the one allowing the holding of plebiscites in areas unable to join the Bangsamoro entity every five years after the BBL is ratified.
“Again, that was a big issue in the last Congress. What is contiguity? Is it by land, by air, by sea? Is it local government unit down to as far as the barangay? What if there is a barangay with 10 percent voters, are we going to include the barangay or the entire city for the plebiscite?” Lobregat said.
“These are the questions that really need to be clarified. I don’t think that provision should be there,” he said.
As to the plebiscite, Lobregat said it would not be right to hold it every five years.
Lobregat said he would closely guard the passage of the new BBL.
“Like I said, I would be there till the very end fighting for Zamboanga City’s interests, standing firm for what is best for Mindanao, upholding the Constitution and defending the country,” Lobregat said.
The Zamboanga representative also reiterated his stand that he is supportive of the lasting and equitable peace effort of the government.
“I always said I am for peace, I am not anti-peace, but we need a Bangsamoro Basic Law that is just, fair, acceptable, feasible and more important it is consistent with the Constitution and existing law,” Lobregat said.
Abella did not answer the supposed contentious issues but responded to questions about the President’s authority to enter into deals with the MILF, saying the group acts as a “principal party” in the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro. The CAB is the formal name of the peace deal between the government and the MILF.