Lobregat, Rodriguez face anew in plenary on BBL interpellation PDF Print E-mail
Wednesday, 30 September 2015 14:23

by Jubels Santos

Zamboanga City District 1 Representative Celso Lobregat and Ad Hoc Committee on the Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) Chairman Rufus Rodriguez faced each other again in Plenary on BBL interpellation last September 23,  2015.

Last June 10,  2015, before Congress adjourned, both Lobregat and Rodriguez were on the floor and interpellation was suspended then. Issues that were discussed then concerned the MOA-AD (Memorandum of Agreement on Ancestral Domain) as it relates to the FAB (Framework Agreement on the Bangsamoro), Annexes, CAB (Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro) and the BBL. Energy issues were also discussed before and the same was cut short.

Lobregat mentioned that from June 10 to present, several issues came up. He cited news articles which reported that the “MILF wants BBL passed without revision” (The Philippine Star, 30 July 2015) and “Palace appeals for passage of BBL ‘as is’” (Manila Bulletin, 10 August 2015). He also cited that as per BTC Resolution No. 005 Series of 2015, the Bangsamoro Transition Commission (BTC) supports passage of BBL by Congress ‘in its original form.’ In relation to this, he mentioned news articles titled “House urged to restore 28 deleted BBL provisions” (The Philippine Star, 06 August 2015) and “Iqbal: ‘Deboned’ BBL unacceptable – MILF may resort anew to armed struggle, ‘blame and shame’ game” (Manila Bulletin, 18 August 2015). Lobregat asked Rodriguez on his take on the said news articles. “Is this a threat?” Lobregat asked.

In response to the issue that the BTC and MILF want Congress to pass the original version of the BBL, Rodriguez said that on 20 May 2015, the Ad Hoc Committee on the BBL made decisions to delete certain provisions and make amendatory language to HB 4994 and the substitute bill was voted upon - HB 5811.

On the letter by BTC Chairman Mohagher Iqbal to House Speaker Feliciano Belmonte Jr. dated 29 July 2015 requesting that the 28 deleted provisions be restored (as per BTC Resolution No. 005 Series of 2015), Rodriguez said that in the meeting in the Speaker’s Social Hall, the House leadership said that it would not accede to the said request because to do so will make the substitute bill to go back to the original provisions which are non-compliant with the Constitution.

On the issue of threat that there would be violence, Rodriguez mentioned that Iqbal had said that was not stated by the MILF Central Committee and the MILF believes in the wisdom of Congress in approving the BBL.

Lobregat pointed out that the substitute bill (HB 5811) came before the statements of the MILF as featured in the news articles and because of the said substitute bill, the BTC came up with the Resolution.

As per BTC Resolution No. 005 Series of 2015, “the BTC strongly expresses its support to the passage of the BBL in its original form (House Bill No. 4994), as the provisions of the same are consistent with the letter and spirit of the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro and the peace talks; Resolved further, that the BTC stands firm that the proposed BBL in its original form is the most appropriate version based on the FAB and CAB and considering that it is the one that underwent the legitimate process of consultation with the people and engagement with the Office of the President; Resolved, finally, that the BTC implores the better judgment of the Leadership of  both Houses of Congress to pass the BBL in its original form and to henceforth act according to the terms of the peace agreements.”

Lobregat also mentioned the issues raised by the BTC concerning the deleted/amended provisions as contained in HB 5811 and he asked the sponsor, Chairman Rodriguez, why the sponsor would stick with the Committee’s decision on the said provisions. Rodriguez answered that the Committee made the deletions/amendment to certain provisions due to the issues of constitutionality, characteristic of a sub-state, and national interest.

First issue, on the changing the nomenclature – from “Bangsamoro” to “Bangsamoro Autonomous Region”; from “territory” to “area”, from “Central Government” to National Government” – thereby changing the framework and certain key principles on the asymmetric relationship between the Central Government and the Bangsamoro that was already agreed upon by the Parties: As per Rodriguez, said amendment was done due to the issue of constitutionality and the characteristic of a sub-state.

Second issue, taking out “parity of esteem” in the Preamble and Article VI [Intergovernmental Relations], which is an important principle in defining the asymmetric relationship between the Central Government and the Bangsamoro Government: Rodriguez said this amendment was done due to constitutionality issue.

For the following provisions: on the expanding the exception to the exclusive powers of the Bangsamoro over natural resources within its territory, from the four minerals – i.e., natural gas, petroleum, coal and uranium – to “strategic minerals”, which include the 4, as well as “mineral oils” and “all other potential sources of energy”; putting “strategic minerals” – which is defined by Central Government – under the reserved power of the Central Government, and not concurrent powers of Central and Bangsamoro Governments, subject only to consultation with the Bangsamoro Government; and taking away the exclusive power of the Bangsamoro to declare protected areas inside the Bangsamoro; Rodriguez said that these amendments were made in consideration of national interest.

The interpellation was cut short due to the question of quorum by BUHAY Representative Jose “Lito” Atienza Jr. Due to lack of quorum, consideration of the measure was suspended and session was adjourned.

Considering that the House will deliberate the FY 2016 budget in Plenary from September 28-October 9, BBL will resume its consideration when session resumes in November 3 thereby adjusting once more the timeline for its passage to December 2015 before Congress adjourn for the Christmas break. — Jubels Santos