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MILF hopes solons won’t pass ‘watered down’ BBL bicam draft

A leader of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front on Thursday hoped Congress would not approve a ‘watered-down’ version of the Bicameral Conference Committee’s draft of the proposed Bangsamoro Basic Law.

MILF vice chairman Ghazali Jaafar said he believed Congress would pass a BBL version that would address the perceived flaws of the existing Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao.

“We do not consider [the BBL being tackled by the bicameral conference committee] as a watered-down BBL. The fact is that the BBL now as we see it, unless it is changed drastically, is no longer ARMM-minus. It is ARMM-plus plus plus,” Jaafar, BTC chairman, said at the sidelines of the bicameral conference committee meeting on the BBL.

The proposed creation of the Bangsamoro region will abolish the ARMM.

Jaafar said he was ‘’satisfied’’ with the results of the bicameral conference committee meetings while hoping legislators would retain provisions in the measure that gives the Bangsamoro the same rights that the ARMM has enjoyed.

Jaafar’s assessment came with President Rodrigo Duterte’s decision on ‘’territorial changes,’’ which he said was in accordance with the Constitution.

Congressmen favored the double-majority vote inclusion, while senators and the BTC preferred the single-vote method on the inclusion of six towns of Lanao del Norte and 39 barangays of North Cotabato in the proposed Bangsamoro region.      

The 39 barangays and six towns are currently part of ARMM.

The BTC had wanted to scrap the mother units’ approval to make it easier for the six Lanao del Norte towns and 39 North Cotabato barangays to join the Bangsamoro.

Jaafar said they understood Duterte’s decision, which was guided by the constitutionality of getting the approval of a mother unit when it came to territorial changes. 

Jaafar said Duterte had committed to support the other requests of the BTC, including giving powers to the Bangsamoro chief minister to appoint the regional police director as well as jurisdiction over Bangsamoro waters.

Senate Majority Leader Juan Miguel Zubiri, chairman of the bicam, said the lawmakers had agreed with the Bangsamoro chief minister provision, with the Bangsamoro’s police and military still falling under the Philippine National Police and Armed Forces of the Philippines, respectively.

The Bangsamoro waters, however, remains a contentious issue the bicam has to address.

Meanwhile, the bicameral conference committee is expected to approve next week the final version of the proposed BBL.

“We are almost done,” Zubiri said.     

“I am confident the outcome would be something that will definitely improve the lives of the Bangsamoro [people] in the region,” he added.

Zubiri, who co-chairs the bicameral conference committee with House Majority Leader and Ilocos Norte Rep. Rodolfo Fariñas, said the secretariat had asked for two days to produce a “clean copy” of the BBL in preparation of its approval.

“We will meet again Wednesday. Hopefully, there is no more need for amendments. This is a much better proposal than what we have in the ARMM,” Zubiri said.

The BBL, which establishes the Bangsamoro juridical entity, which will replace the ARMM, is expected to be signed into law on the day of President Duterte’s third State of the Nation Address on July 23.

Topics: Moro Islamic Liberation Front , Bangsamoro Basic Law , Congress , Ghazali Jaafar , Rodolfo Fariñas , Juan Miguel Zubiri
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