Lobregat continues ‘Turno En Contra’ on BBL-BLBAR PDF Print E-mail
Monday, 01 February 2016 11:25

District 1 Congressman Celso Lobregat took the floor in the House of Representatives on Jan. 26, 2016 to continue to deliver his TURNO EN CONTRA on the controversial Basic Law on the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region (BLBAR).

This was the second time for Lobregat to take the floor to deliver his Turno En Contra. It will be recalled that Congressman Lobregat started his Turno En Contra last Jan. 19. He spoke for more than an hour before the question on quorum was raised.

In his Jan. 26 Turno en Contra, Lobregat raised issues such as the Bangsamoro Waters/Joint Cooperation Zones, Bangsamoro Geographical Area, the OPT IN provision, and Annex on Normalization.

Under the proposed law on the Bangsamoro Waters, it is stated that the Bangsamoro people, other indigenous people in the adjoining provinces, and resident fishers in the Bangsamoro shall have PREFERENTIAL RIGHTS over fishery, aquamarine and other living resources in the Zones of Joint Cooperation.

Lobregat said that though Zamboanga City is not part of the Bangsamoro, these provisions put the fishing industry of Zamboanga City, General Santos and other parts of the country as well as Local Government Units in a non-level playing field and unequal position.,

Lobregat asked, “are there two classes of Filipinos?  What about the Equal Protection Clause?”.

On the issue of Geographical Area, under BLBAR Article III, Section 2, the provision reads as follows: The Geographical Area of the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region is composed of: b) The municipalities of Baloi, Munai, Nunungan, Pantar, Tagaloan, and Tangkal in the province of Lanao del Norte and all other barangays in the municipalities of Kabakan, Carmen, Aleosan, Pigkawayan, Pikit, and Midsayap that voted for inclusion in the Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao during the 2001 plebiscite.

Lobregat argued that this provision is contrary to the constitution. He cited Article 10, Section 10 of the 1987 Constitution stating: No province, city, municipality, or barangay may be created, divided, merged, abolished, or its boundary substantially altered, except in accordance with the criteria established in the local government code and subject to approval by a majority of the votes cast in plebiscite in the political units directly affected and Section 18 which provides: The creation of the autonomous region shall be effective when approved by a majority of the votes cast by the constituent units in a plebiscite called for the purpose, provided that only provinces, cities, and geographic areas voting favorably in such plebiscite shall be included in the autonomous region. Lobregat said that the Areas and LGU in question should be by province or by city, and not by municipality and definitely not by barangay.

To stress his point, Lobregat cited excerpts in the Aug. 19, 1986 Constitutional Commission wherein then Commissioner Azcuna accepted an amendment proposed by Mr. Delos Reyes that inclusion in the autonomous region should be by province or city, so that it will not include municipality and barangay.

On the OPT-IN provision, Lobregat stated that it has been repeatedly declared by the Ad Hoc Committee Chairman in the period of debate that the House leadership and the Chairman will delete the Opt-In provision and its deletion will be the very first Committee amendment that will be introduced and approved.

Lobregat said he does not doubt the commitment of the House Leadership and the Chairman saying that it is on record that even the Peace Council recommended for the deletion of the Opt-In provision. It was the consensus, he added, before the period of amendments on the Ad Hoc Committee that the Opt-In provision will be deleted.

Yet, Lobregat said, the provision found its way back in the BLBAR with a modification citing the Tripoli Agreement and calling for three plebiscites – first, during the creation of the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region; second, 5 years after, and the third, 10 years after.

Lobregat explained, if not completely deleted, this opt in provision will cause chaos, uncertainty and instability instead of promoting peace. This provision will create a scenario of constant conflict and tug-of-war between the Bangsamoro and the LGU outside the Bangsamoro, and will make for A CREEPING AND NEVER ENDING BANGSAMORO EXPANSION. A CLASSIC CASE OF GERRYMANDERING.

Lobregat asked “How and why did our government peace panel agreed to this very lopsided and one-sided provision in favor of the Bangsamoro and unfair and uneven playing field for the contiguous and near contiguous local government unit?”

It is only the Bangsamoro that can expand. Once you are in, there is no escape.

The contiguous and neighboring local government units cannot do anything except to wait for the possibility of dismemberment.

On the Annex on Normalization, this was the last Annex to be signed by the GPH and the MILF Panel. It was signed on January 25, 2014 – exactly one year to the date when the Mamasapano Massacre occurred.

Lobregat asked “is it coincidental? in hindsight this is strange, weird, mysterious – to describe this situation in one word it is simply EEIRIE”.

This Annex signed by both panels one year before the massacre contains a provision on the protocol on the movement of troops in the Bangsamoro.

Under Redeployment of the AFP, the Annex provides:

4. There shall be coordination between the Central Government and the Bangsamoro Government in the movement of the AFP in the Bangsamoro. In the exercise of this coordination, protocols shall be established by the Central Government and the Bangsamoro Government.

The Mamasapano Massacre occurred on January 25, 2015. The Ad Hoc Committee Hearings were suspended on February 9, 2015 to give way to the House probe on the Mamasapano Massacre.

The House conducted its first Mamasapano hearing on Feb. 11, 2015. It was a tense, emotion-filled and unruly hearing. And it was during Congressman Lobregat’s turn of questioning regarding the protocol of coordination before the Police or Military operate in an MILF area that then OIC Police Chief Gen. Leonardo Espina turned emotional in his response.

There was even a heated discussion on whether to play the viral video showing the shooting of a dying and helpless SAF commando.

Lobregat said the Mamasapano probe was suspended and so were the BBL hearings but the Congressional probe was resumed on April 7 and 8, 2015 while the BBL hearings also resumed on April 20, 2015.

The BBL hearings on April 20 and 23 tackled the controversial issues of Defense and National Security, Public Order and Safety, Operations of the Armed Forces in the Bangsamoro, Creation of the Bangsamoro Police, Powers of the Chief Minister over the Bangsamoro Police and Normalization.  The hearings occurred as confidence and trust in the MILF was at its lowest because of the Mamasapano Massacre.

On the May 18 Ad Hoc Committee meeting prior to votation, Lobregat presented a motion to bring back the trust and confidence in the MILF; that the MILF should return, not just some, but all of the firearms, surrender all those involved in the killing of the SAF 44. Lobregat’s motion was in support of the position of the Ad Hoc committee chairman as published in the March 4 issue of the Philippine Daily Inquirer. Rodriguez was quoted by the publication as saying that the passage of the measure seeking to create a substate in Mindanao would depend on the surrender of the firearms seized by Moro fighters during the massacre of 44 Special Action Force (SAF) commandos in Mamasapano on Jan. 25, 2015,

Lobregat’s motion as seconded by Congresswoman Cerilles, however, was lost by a vote of 37 against and 18 in favor.

As he delivered the continuation of his Turno en Contra on Tuesday, Jan. 26, 2016, Lobregat requested for a one-minute temporary suspension so that they can all say their own silent prayers- to pray for the repose of the souls of the Fallen 44 and their families.

On the issue of Annex on Normalization, Lobregat said that while the Ad Hoc committee deleted from the proposed BBL/HB 4994 the provisions on Public Order and Safety in order to lessen the fears, make the measure more acceptable, and conform with the Constitution and applicable laws, the provision giving the Chief Minister powers over the Bangsamoro Police is still found.

Lobregat was referring to BLBAR HB 5811 ARTICLE X, Sec. 8 as follows; c) To exercise operational control and supervision and disciplinary powers over the Bangsamoro Police, and d) To employ or deploy the elements of and assign or reassign the Bangsamoro Police through the Bangsamoro Police Director. The Bangsamoro Police Director shall not countermand the order of the Chief Minster unless it is in violation of the law.

In arguing against this particular Section, Lobregat raised three points:

Under the PNP Law, isn’t the exercise of operational control and supervision over the police given to the city or municipal mayors?  This authority is not even given to a provincial governor- not to the DILG Secretary nor the President of the Philippines.

How can the Chief Minister situated in the office probably located in Cotabato City exercise operational control, supervision, employ and deploy policemen in Simunul or Sibutu in Tawi-tawi or Indanan and Patikul in Sulu. Not even the Governor of Tawi-tawi and the Governor of Sulu exercises this power.

Can you imagine the awesome powers the Chief Minister will yield and the muscle he can flex on his political opponents and LGU officials not affiliated with the Chief Minister in the whole region with these powers?

As Lobregat was speaking, Congressman Lito Atienza rose on the floor saying that Congressman Lobregat was revealing very important information that his colleagues in Congress ought to listen to.  However, he said that with not more than 25 congressmen present, he called for adjournment. (Lea LM)