Palace on BBL: 'Let's find common ground'

Dharel Placido, ABS-CBN News

Posted at May 31 2018 02:32 PM | Updated as of May 31 2018 03:25 PM

President Rodrigo Duterte (center) poses with Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process Jesus Dureza (left), Al-Hajj Murad Ebrahim (2nd left), chairman of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), Ghazali Jaafar (2nd R), vice-chairman of the MILF and Mohagher Iqbal (right) on July 17, 2017. Ted Ajibe, Agence France-Presse/File

MANILA - As the proposed Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) enters a crucial process in the legislative mill, the Palace is hoping for all stakeholders to reach a compromise and come up with a final version of the bill that is acceptable to all.

Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque said cooperation is needed among all stakeholders so the proposed measure that would grant greater autonomy to Muslims in the south would pass judicial scrutiny.

“There are respective versions that each sector is pushing [for] but we need a version that is acceptable to all and will withstand the test of judicial scrutiny. Otherwise, we might end up with no BBL at all,” Roque said in a Palace press briefing.

“The President’s appeal is while we have our respective interests, let’s find a common ground so we can move forward.”

The two chambers of Congress passed their respective versions of the bill on Wednesday and early Thursday in time for the recess. A bicameral conference will convene during this period to reconcile the drafts before President Rodrigo Duterte can sign it into law.

The President certified the bill as urgent on Tuesday. 

Roque's statement came after the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) said it hoped lawmakers would come up with a bill that is as close as possible to the version proposed by the Bangsamoro Transition Commission.

While the Senate's and the House of Representatives' versions were "not exactly" watered down, the MILF wants "more," said the rebel group's vice chairman for political affairs Ghazali Jaafar.

These include restoring the full block grant for the Bangsamoro from government revenues as the development of Moro lands would need more funds, Jaafar told ANC's Headstart.

"Gusto namin 'yung mga proposal namin sa BBL maipasok 'yan lahat. Hindi man buo, at least it will not be diluted or it will not be watered down," he told ANC, referring to the BBL. 

(We want our proposals to be included in the final version of the BBL. If not, at least the final version should not be watered-down.)

Jaafar co-chaired the BTC which drafted the BBL and submitted it to the Senate and the House.

Roque said Duterte acted as a “mediator” between legislators and Moro leaders who have conflicting views on the Bangsamoro bill.

He said the President left to Congress' leaders how to reconcile conflicting versions of the bill, but that the chief executive was firm on not allowing the Bangsamoro entity to have its own police and military forces.

One of the most contentious parts of the bill that the leaders will have to deal with, Roque said, is the “opt-in” provision, which will allow other areas to join the proposed Bangsamoro autonomous region.

Zamboanga City Rep. Celso Lobregat, who is part of the bicameral conference committee that will reconcile the House and Senate versions of the bill, is one of the fiercest opponents of this provision.

Lobregat wants the plebiscite on the draft BBL held only once, contrary to the proposal that this be held once every five years for the next 25 years after the law’s passage.