Charter change eyed as BBL expected to face rough sailing in Congress

Arlene Burgos, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Sep 25 2017 10:46 AM

RABAT - A proposed law creating a new autonomous Bangsamoro region in the southern Philippines is expected to face rough sailing in Congress, prompting Bangsamoro region supporters to look at other options even as formal deliberations for the measure have yet to begin.

Possible amendments to the 1987 Constitution should be studied to accommodate a fully functioning Bangsamoro region, said Atty. Laisa Alamia, executive secretary of the regional governor's office at the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao.

The proposed Bangsamoro Basic Law, recently certified as an urgent measure by President Rodrigo Duterte, abolishes the ARMM and establishes the Bangsamoro political entity via a Moro government.

"For some of the provisions of the BBL you have to have an amendment of the Constitution. That has been the problem in the previous administration. If we are not going to amend the Constitution, so that there would be no questions about the constitutionality of the law, that would mean also diluting the law," Alamia said, referencing a similar Bangsamoro body proposal that failed to move during the previous administration because of constitutional issues.

"If it (proposed Bangsamoro Basic Law) becomes diluted, then it’s not going to resolve the current issues that we already have. It’s not going to be a solution," she said.

Alamia faced international journalists in her office in ARMM in Cotabato City Friday. Like several other BBL supporters, she expects the BBL's time in the legislative mill to take a while.

"It’s (proposed BBL) very detailed, it’s based on the issues that are present now, it’s going to change the system that we have here. I think it’s going to take a long time," Alamia said about the timeline to have the measure passed.

"Personally, I wouldn’t want a BBL that would be passed that is diluted and that is less than the ARMM or just equal to the ARMM because we do not just want an ARMM, an RA (Republic Act) 9054 with all the flaws that are present," she said about the draft measure.

Alamia said ARMM is helping the BBL even if it means "demise of the ARMM if only it’s (BBL) going to solve all of the problems and respond to the aspirations of the Bangsamoro."

BBL supporters anticipate resistance in Congress over the draft law's inconsistencies with the 1987 Constitution, and because the measure expands territories for inclusion under a Moro government.

Timeline adjustment

The measure's draft was submitted as scheduled in July. But proponents are estimating six months at least for deliberation in Congress before it is passed. The original target to pass the measure was December, but that may have to be extended, said Undersecretary Diosita Andot of the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process.

"If it passes, it will pass in December, then we can have within 120 days the ratification of the bill," Andot said.

Andot said there are identified territories but the BBL draft contains provision to allow expansion by allowing places to opt-in for membership into the Bangsamoro region. This is a cause for apprehension for some places, she said.

"Magiging problema iyon because the congressmen, the political leaders will really fight that in Congress," she said.

There are hopes that an empowered Bangsamoro region would douse an intensifying radicalization of youth who are being recruited by extremists into ISIS-like organizations. Moro Islamic Liberation Front Vice Chair Ghazali Jaafar said they are talking with other armed Moro groups to disarm for the BBL.

But draft measures for the Bangsamoro federal-style region have been dogged by inconsistencies with the 1987 Constitution and the current unitary system of government, making the push for the new region one with constitutional repercussions.

The MILF-drafted proposal have yet to be sponsored by a Congress member for tackling.
Editor's note: The author is participating in the East-West Center's Senior Journalists' Program, which includes dialogues with governance and security experts in the United States, the Philippines, and Morocco