Bongbong mulls amending ARMM law in lieu of BBL

by Ryan Chua, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Jun 08 2015 05:41 PM | Updated as of Jun 09 2015 01:41 AM

MANILA - Senator Ferdinand Marcos Jr. is thinking of amending the organic law of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) and turning it into a substitute to the draft Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL), a measure he had said he could not support.

Marcos, chairman of the Senate committee on local government, believes sticking with the ARMM and improving it would be better than creating the new Bangsamoro autonomous region and confronting its constitutional issues.

“Malaking amendment ‘yan at malaking proposal na sa palagay ko, makakatulong din na masagot ang sinasabing constitutional infirmities (It’s a big amendment and proposal that I think would help address constitutional infirmities),” he told reporters on Monday.

The ARMM was a product of agreements the government struck with the Moro National Liberation Front. In pushing for the BBL—a product of years of peace negotiations with an MNLF splinter group, the Moro Islamic Liberation Front—the Aquino administration had called the ARMM a “failed experiment”.

The BBL gives the proposed Bangsamoro region greater autonomy from central government, and unique features such as a parliamentary government system.

Marcos said simply amending the ARMM law would mean the Senate would no longer have to confront issues raised against the BBL, such as its creation of the Bangsamoro’s version of constitutional offices and a local police force.

Last week, Marcos said in a privilege speech he could not support the BBL in its present form and vowed to present a substitute bill.

He said he would likely come up with the substitute bill and his committee’s report weeks after the last committee hearing scheduled on Tuesday, June 9. The hearing will focus on issues of taxation, and the health, business, and education sectors within the Bangsamoro.

Asked if there was a need for a special session to fast-track the measure’s passage, Marcos pointed out that there was no use for it at the moment.

“Kahit may special session, ang mangyayari, kahit nandito ang mga senador, wala naman silang pag-uusapan dahil wala naman tayong binibigay na committee report at wala pang binibigay na substitute bill (Even if we hold a special session, senators would have nothing to discuss because we still don’t have a substitute bill and committee report),” he said.

Senate President Franklin Drilon said the BBL would likely be passed in September.

Since the BBL envisions Bangsamoro elections synchronized with the May 2016 national polls, this means the deadline for the filing of certificates of candidacy (COC) in October this year might be moved.

Marcos said it is up to the Commission on Elections to decide on the matter.

Senator Francis Escudero agreed, pointing out that the Comelec is an independent body. He added, however, that any movement in the deadline of COC filing should apply only to the Bangsamoro.