Lobregat continues his ‘Turno En Contra’ on BBL-BLBAR PDF Print E-mail
Thursday, 04 February 2016 11:03

District 1  Congressman Celso Lobregat continued his Turno En Contra on HB-5811 – Basic Law for the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region (BLBAR) last January 27. Lobregat raises questions on Funding Appropriation-Budget, Sharing in the Exploration, Development and Utilization of Natural Resources, and Local, Regional and National Election.

On the issue of Funding Appropriation- Budget, Lobregat said that before going to the funding for the Bangsamoro, let us examine the ARMM.  It is claimed that the ARMM area is among the most deprived, marginalized and the poorest in the country.             Presenting a Slide showing the 2012 Poverty Statistics of the NSCB, it appears that out of the 20 poorest provinces, 2 from the ARMM, 13 from Mindanao. The two from the ARMM, Lanao del Sur 68.9 % and Maguindanao 57.8 %.  But the three provinces of Tawi-Tawi, Sulu and Basilan are not in this category. Out of 20, 13 are from Mindanao-meaning not only part of ARMM but Mindanao in general has a high poverty index.

Lobregat asked, “has the ARMM been given lower budgets or less priority by the National Government as compared to other regions? Analyzing the level of budget given to the different regions and the resulting budget per capita from 2014 back to 2006 as provided by DBM, the ranking of per capita of the ARMM was between No. 4-8 out of 16 regions. Always in the better half and never at the tail end.

He also cited that under the Aquino government starting 2011 and under the Adiong governorship, the budget for the ARMM increased to the level of P 11.8 Billion in 2011 with P 12.4 Billion in 2012.  In the Hataman governorship, this dramatically increased to P 14 Billion in 2013 shot up to p 20.5 Billion in 2014 and ballooned to P 25.2 Billion in 2015 and is NOW  P 29.4 Billion in 2016.

Looking at the funding projection of the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region, Lobregat tackled provision by provision starting with Article 11, Section 10 Page 57 on Share in Taxes of the National Government.  It so provides that the National Government taxes, fees and charges collected in the Bangsamoro, other than tariff and customs duties shall be shared as follows; a) 25 % to the National Government and b) 75 % to the Bangsamoro, including shares of the local government units. It further states that the 25 % share of the National Government shall, for a period of ten (10) years, be retained by the Bangsamoro Government. The period for retention may be extended upon mutual agreement of the National Government and the Bangsamoro Government. The share in taxes, fees, and charges provided under this section are separate and distinct from the annual block grant that is appropriated to the Bangsamoro Government under Section 15 of this Article.

Section 15 states that the National Government shall provide an annual block grant which shall be the share of the Bangsamoro Government in the national internal revenue. The amount shall be sufficient for the exercise of the powers and functions of the Bangsamoro Government under this Basic Law which in no case shall be less than the last budget received by the Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao immediately before the establishment of the Bangsamoro Transition Authority.

Lobregat also cited Section 16 on the Formula of the Block Grant which provides that for the budget year immediately following the year the Act takes effect, the amount of the block grant shall be equivalent to four percent (4%) of the net national internal revenue collection of the Bureau of Internal Revenue less the internal revenue allotment of local government units. For purposes of this section, the net national internal revenue collection of the BIR is understood to be the sum of all internal revenue collections during the base year less the amount released during the same year for tax refunds, payments for informer’s reward, and any portion of internal revenue tax collections which are presently set aside, or hereafter earmarked under special laws for payment to third persons. Provided, that the computation shall be based on collections from the third fiscal year preceding the current fiscal year. Provided further that the above formula shall be adjusted if, after the effectivity of this Act, there occurs a change in the total land area of the Bansamoro Autonomous Region. Provided furthermore, that in the event the National Government incurs an unmanageable public sector deficit, the President of the Philippines shall call for the activation of the intergovernmental relations body where both the President and the Chief Minister of the Bangsamoro Parliament shall participate to look at the possibility of adjusting the annual block grant of the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region. And, provided finally, that this adjustment shall be during the duration of the unmanageable public sector deficit only.

Also provided under Section 2 is the Special Development Fund to be provided by the National Government to the Bangsamoro Government for the rehabilitation and development purposes upon the ratification of this Basic Law. Also provided is the establishment of the women’s peace fund primarily managed by women, as a window to the special development fund in support of gender as a cross-section concern. The amount equivalent to Seven Billion pesos ( Php 7,000,000,000,00) shall be allocated for the first year following the ratification of this Basic Law. Beginning the second year, the Special Development Fund shall be in the amount of Ten Billion pesos (Php 10,000,000,000.00) which shall be paid out to the Bangsamoro Government over five (5) years, at the rate of Two Billion pesos (Php 2,000,000,000.00) per year. Such amount shall be regularly released at the beginning of each fiscal year to the Bangsamoro Government.

Lobregat also cited Sec. 13. Initial Funding for Transition- To carry out the requirements of transition, including the organizational activities of the Bangsamoro Transition Authority, organization of the bureaucracy, hiring of personnel, and the exercise of functions and powers of the Bangsamoro Transition Authority, as provided in this Basic Law, the amount of One Billion pesos ( Php 1,000,000,000.00) is hereby appropriated for the Bangsamoro Transition Authority, charged against the General Funds of the National Government. In addition, the current year’s appropriation for the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao shall also be transferred to the Bangsamoro Transition Authority for this purpose.  This shall be without prejudice to any supplemental budget that may be appropriated by Congress to support the transition.  Government functions falling within the reserved powers of the National Government in the Bangsamoro shall continue to be financed by the National Government.

On Section 32 which has to do with the Sharing, Exploration, Development and Utilization of Natural Resources and referring to the DOF position on the matter which states that sharing scheme shall be applicable to the natural resources found in the land mass that comprise the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region as well as the waters that are within its geographical area.

Commenting on this DOF position, Lobregat suggested to delete the phrase “as well as the waters that are within its geographical area” in the last paragraph of the section. The inclusion of “waters “is not part of the Annex on Revenue Generation and Wealth Sharing, to wit;

Section 32. Sharing of Exploration, Development and Utilization of Natural Resources-The sharing scheme shall be applicable to the natural resources found in the land mass that comprise the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region.

Lobregat raised issue on Article VII, particularly Section 10. Bangsamoro Electoral Code. The Bangsamoro Transition Authority shall enact the Bangsamoro Electoral Code, which shall be correlated to national election laws, in so far as these are consistent with this Basic Law. The creation of the Bangsamoro Electoral Office which shall be the regional office of the Commission on Elections, and which shall perform the functions of the COMELEC in the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region. In addition to enforcing national election laws in the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region, the Bangsamoro Electoral Office shall likewise implement the Bangsamoro Electoral Code enacted by the Bangsamoro Parliament, and shall perform the following functions: a) Register and accredit regional political parties, b) In relation to plebiscite for joining the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region, receive petitions or resolutions to join from geographical areas, c) schedule plebiscites for expansion, and d) Prepare rules and regulations for Bangsamoro elections and plebiscites for the promulgation of the Commission on Elections. All rules and regulations governing the Bangsamoro elections and plebiscites shall emanate from the Bangsamoro Electoral Office.

Lobregat asked, “why should the Bangsamoro have its own electoral code?  Are elections in the Bangsamoro distinct, unique and different from the rest of the Philippines?”

Furthermore, Lobregat said that “COMELEC is a constitutional body, why do we legislate on how they should operate and structure their organization and legislate the offices they create?”

“If the preparation of rules and regulations for the Bangsamoro plebiscite is supposed to be done by the Bangsamoro Electoral Office and all rules and regulations governing Bangsamoro elections and plebiscite emanate from the Bangsamoro Electoral Office, then this infringes on the very office of a constitution body like the COMELEC, and the COMELEC shall merely become a rubber stamp of its Regional Office”, Lobregat argued.

Lobregat also cited Section 8. Registered Voters. As part of this provision, it is stated that notwithstanding existing laws, rules and regulations on overseas and absentee voters, the Commission on Elections shall ensure that qualified voters for the plebiscite who are located outside the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region on the date of the plebiscite shall be given the opportunity to vote. Lobregat described this provision anomalous and simply impossible to implement.

Citing another provision stating, “The Commission on Elections shall conduct a special registration before the date of the plebiscite on the Bangsamoro Basic Law”, Lobregat commented “Please, we have continuing registration. What is the intent of a special registration?”

Lobregat also questioned provisions under Art. 15 entitled BANGSAMORO TRANSITION AUTHORITY, Section 1. Transition Period – the transition of interim period for the establishment of the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region shall commence upon ratification of this Basic Law.

The law shall be deemed ratified upon proclamation of the Commission on Elections or its duly authorized officers, that a majority of the votes cast in the plebiscite in the constituent units are in favor of the creation of the Autonomous Region. The fact of ratification shall be confirmed by the Government of the Philippines and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front negotiating panels.

Lobregat asked “Why why does the proclamation of the Commission on Elections have to be confirmed by the negotiating panel of the Government of the Philippines and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front. Are both panels supreme over a constitutional body like the COMELEC? How could our own peace panel agree to this provision – it only shows the arrogance of our GPH panel”.

Lobregat’s Turno en Contra was temporarily suspended to give way to discuss other matters in the congress. (Lea LM)