Will the BBL work? PDF Print E-mail
Friday, 20 July 2018 13:39



This is the question that many skeptics are asking after the Bicameral Conference Committee has finally finished their task in fine-tuning the many questionable jusrisdictional and constitutional issues enveloping this bill. Senator Zubiri and Congressman Fariñas, the Chairs of their respective committees in the Senate and House of Representatives, were brimming with pride and confidence that with the passage of this historic BBL law, a new era will dawn on Muslim Mindanao after years of legal setbacks, correcting centuries of injustice to the Moro people.

Unlike its predecessor, the Arroyo-era Memorandum of Agreement on Ancestral Domain or MoA-AD, they were very confident that this law will hurdle legal or any other challenges and will not go the way of its predecessor.

Recall that the MoA-AD which sought to establish a “Bangsamoro Juridical Entity” was declared unconstitutional by the Supreme Court in 2008 for reason that it was maneuvered to be a law without going through Congress. I remember it was then Congressman Erbie Fabian, representing the 2nd District of Zamboanga City, who filed a very timely petition with the Supreme Court to protect the interest of the city and to declare the unconstitutionality of the proposed law.

This time around, the pro-administration lawmakers saw to it that this proposed law should be the product of legislative-executive consensus with the concurrence of the Bangsamoro Transition Council led by the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF). Recall, that the latter signed a peace deal with the Aquino administration but failed to realize their objective. The Supreme Court declared the unconstitutionality of the deal and derailed its signing in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, attended and to be witness by the then lady US Ambassador, ARMM officials and a local elected official of our city.

Compared to the existing ARMM, the BBL being the product of the legislative branches, they argue that by empowering it with greater self-rule, it will be more effective in addressing the problems of the Moros in achieve lasting peace in Mindanao.

To make it more potent, the national government will yield many specific powers to the Bangsamoro region to make it stronger and more effective in administering its autonomous territory and developing its economy. These include the setting up, of shariah, district, and high courts that will exercise jurisdiction on personal, family, property, and minor criminal cases. The Bangsamoro region will likewise be given the power of taxation, fifty percent of which will be kept by it and the other half remitted to the national government. Over and above this, as a jump-start to develop its economy, it will be granted P60 to P70 billion by the national government. This is in addition to their share of the internal revenue allotment (IRA) that the provinces, cities, municipalities, and villages under its jurisdiction will receive.

But many are against the passage of the BBL that even in some areas within its proposed territory, many denizens are sounding that they are oppose to it.  There are very disturbing reports that even in Basilan, Sulu, and Tawi-Tawi Provinces are against it. During the final stages of the bicameral deliberations, Malacañang allegedly intervened to break the deadlock over the bill’s controversial and debatable provision on territorial jurisdiction. The MILF had no recourse but to agree to the provision that six towns and 39 villages in Lanao del Norte will be incorporated into the Bangsamoro region if the voters in their “mother units” or provinces approve it in a referendum. Votes of disapproval from these areas will certainly reduce the extent of the Bangsamoro territory.

But talking about all these is like putting the horse ahead of the cart. Once signed into law by President Duterte, anybody, to include the noisy Opposition, the Yellow Army, or the Makabayan Group will raise the constitutionality of this law. Knowing that said law was enacted without first amending the provisions of the Constitution creating the Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao (ARMM), I’m pretty sure that the Supreme Court will strike it down.

Eventually, President Duterte’s commitment to lasting peace and dream of ending decades of fighting between government and the Muslim rebels in Mindanao will be thrown into the dustbin of history.