FORMER peace panel chairman retired general Rodolfo Garcia and University of the Philippines professor and political analyst Clarita Carlos said on Monday that there is no need to rush the passing of the proposed Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) before the term of President Benigno Aquino III ends in 2016.
At the same time, Senate president pro tempore Ralph Recto said the Bangsamoro Basic Law cannot pass at its present form and has to undergo revision and improvements while Magdalo Rep. Gary Alejano confirmed that lawmakers are averse to some of its provisions.
Garcia, who once headed the government’s peace panel, said the BBL cannot be rushed because it was obvious that it is currently “in hard times.
“There is an outpouring of negative sentiments against the BBL,” he said.
Garcia pointed out that the BBL allows for a police force under the Bangsamoro and but people are now wary of giving the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) their own police force amid the Mamasapano incident.
Garcia explained that a rushed BBL may not reflect what has been stipulated in the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro earlier signed by the MILF and Aquino.
“The question is, will [the BBL] be acceptable to our brother Muslims?” he asked.
Garcia, however, warned that the alternative of peace is not acceptable.
“The imperative is for us to have the BBL. Perhaps it is wise to put on hold when emotions are still running high… but let’s go back to work in putting BBL into law. The alternative is hard to imagine. The alternative is possibly war,” he said.
Carlos, on the other hand, said that it is better to allow time to pass before the bill is signed.
Speaking in an interview with ABS-CBN’s “The Bottomline,” Carlos said: “Let time pass. Let’s not anymore rush this to make it before the end of the Aquino administration, which has around 500 days or so left.”
Carlos noted that emotions are still running high after the death of 44 police commandos, 18 MILF members and at least seven civilians in the Mamasapano clash last January 25.
She noted that there are many forces who want the BBL passed to add to Aquino’s legacies.
Still, Carlos hopes the Mamasapano incident will not be the kiss of death for the BBL.
“Let emotions die down. That’s the reason why negotiations can’t be done at the heat of the moment. Otherwise, you make mistakes and errors in judgment,” she said, adding that “graduated peace” should be the battle cry for now.
“I think peace in parts or graduated peace is where we should go,” she said.
She also urged the adults who want to scuttle the BBL altogether to “give our young people the optimism of the future,” saying that peace is still possible.
“Yes, there have been lots of challenges in the past, but people have to move forward. People will take stock of what happened, but people will realize the long term effects of peace,” she said.
In the Senate, president pro tempore Ralph Recto said the Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) must be cured of its perceived constitutional defects as it is “littered with policy landmines which must be defused.
Recto said the bill cannot pass at its present form, and has to undergo revision and improvements.
“But amending the bill should not be equated with mangling it,” said Recto as he assured the Senate will not be “blackmailed into rubber-stamping” the approval of the MILF-drafted proposed BBL.
“We have to fix it here. It must pass the constitutional litmus test here. It’s better for the legislature to make it constitutionally-compliant than for the Supreme Court to strike it down later,” Recto said.
Recto said another “contentious” issue is in the area of “financing the peace.”
He said the BBL is basically an appropriations bill since. It creates financial obligations in the tens of billions of pesos. It also binds the national government, and ultimately taxpayers, to allocate large sums of money every year,” Recto said.
“On the first year alone of the Bangsamoro establishment, the projected minimum cost is P75 billion,” Recto said, citing official estimates on the fiscal impact of the creation of the Moro sub-state in Mindanao.
He said a big chunk of this is in the form of a “block grant,” which in 2016, according to testimonies of government officials, will be around P27 billion.
In the draft BBL, he said the block grant is automatically appropriated, meaning Congress is obliged to approve it. It may be open to congressional scrutiny, but not to congressional deletion or even reduction.
“Many were saying that this like our sovereign debt. In our budget, the national debt is automatically appropriated,” he said.
The BBL also provides for a “Special Development Fund” which will be remitted by Manila to the Bangsamoro government.
He said P10 billion is bigger than the combined budget of the Tourism (DOT) and Trade and Industry (DTI) departments, or the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (TESDA).
On top of these entitlements, he said barangays, cities, towns and provinces constituting the Bangsamoro region will continue receiving their Internal Revenue Allotments (IRA), which is the share of local governments from taxes collected by the national government.
Despite the huge allocations, there will be status quo on what national government agencies are spending in the region, Recto said. “The block grant, the SDF and other entitlements are over and above present spending levels.”
“For example, funds for the maintenance of national roads and bridges will still be supplied by the DPWH. Budget of state universities will still come from the pocket of the national government,” Recto said.
He said national agencies will not be pulling the financial plug because the Bangsamoro is already in place. That is clear in the BB.
On top of getting “guaranteed aid” from the national government, the Bangsamoro will be able to retain or receive tax payments in the region on a “sharing formula other LGUs can only dream of.”
“There are automatically appropriated funds, then they can keep the taxes, in part or in full, of the taxes they can collect,” Recto said.
In the House, Alejano said the Bangsamoro flag, its own parliament, a chief minister, 50 assemblymen, own police and army forces, own Commission on Elections, Commission on Audit and an annual budget of P70 billion are some of the provisions that are contentious.
These are among the contentious issues that discourage lawmakers from passing the controversial Bangsamoro Basic Law and triggered the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters to breakaway from the Moro Islamic Liberation Front, House leaders told the Manila Standard.
Alejano said MILF leaders are recruiting and campaigning to grab most seats in parliament.
Alejano said the MILF, who signed the peace deal with government and continued to negotiate peace, may be violating the ceasefire agreement for its massive recruitment and military training even beyond core territories.
“The dynamics within the MILF is becoming alarming and dangerous because the MILF leaders wanted to expand their military and political clout to enable them to grab as many seats and positions in the parliament,’ Alejano told dzBB last Sunday.
House Majority Leader Neptali Gonzales II said the House could not give to MILF everything that it wanted.
The position of the House, he said, was for the MILF and the Palace to “take it or leave it.”
“We cannot afford to give to MILF the provisions that would make Congress violate the Constitution. They may have to contend with a watered down version of the BBL but that’s as far as we can give them,” Gonzales said.
“We will delete the provisions that are unconstitutional. If the MILF and the peace panel would not accept that, wala kaming magagawa,” said Cagayan de Oro Rep. Rufus Rodriguez, chairman of the 75-member House special ad hoc committee on BBL.
Rodriguez, a lawyer, admitted he was “gung ho” about passing the BBL until the January 25 Mamasapano bloodbath that killed 44 elite Special Action Force commandos.
Rodriguez’s panel suspended the BBL hearings and demanded that the MILF proved its sincerity by showing confidence building measures that its camp was also interested in pursuing peace.
The President also reviewed the final draft of the BBL, approved it and transmitted to Congress for approval.
The BBL seeks to create a new political entity to be called the Bangsamoro that will replace the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao, which the President described as a “failed experiment.”
Among the outstanding issues that had to be finetuned by the House were possible unconstitutional provisions, especially those fleshing out the annexes on wealth-sharing and power-sharing.
Under the wealth-sharing annex, the Bangsamoro will also enjoy 100 percent of resources from non-metallic minerals such as sand, gravel and quarry and 75 percent of income from the exploration, development and utilization of metallic minerals within the region.
Only income derived from fossil fuels and uranium shall be shared equally by the Bangsamoro with the central government.
Under the annex on power-sharing, the Bangsamoro assembly shall have at least 50 members representing district, party-list, sectoral and reserved seats.
The assembly shall be headed by a Chief Minister, who shall be elected by majority votes from among the members of the assembly.
The national government shall have reserved powers on defense and external security, foreign policy, coinage and monetary policy, postal service, citizenship and naturalization, immigration, customs and tariff, common market and global trade, and intellectual property rights.
The government and the Bangsamoro shall have 14 jointly-shared powers, including social security and pensions, land registration, pollution control, penology, coast guard, civil service and maintenance of national roads and bridges, among others.
The Bangsamoro, on the other hand, shall have 58 exclusive powers, including tourism, creation of sources of revenue, power generation, ancestral domain and natural resources, and management of all fishery, marine and aquatic resources within the Bangsamoro territorial jurisdiction, among others.
The Bangsamoro government will also have authority and jurisdiction over the exploration, development and utilization of mines and minerals within its territory. With PNA