SENATE Minority Leader Franklin Drilon and Sen. Juan Miguel Zubiri believe that the Senate’s version of the Bangsamoro Basic Law is “more compliant” with the Constitution than the bill passed by the House of Representatives.
Drilon on Saturday identified at least 10 major differences between the two measures that must be ironed out during the bicameral conference committee meeting.
Zubiri, chairman of the Senate subcommittee on BBL, who sponsored the passage of Senate Bill 1717, said the bicam meeting to reconcile the conflicting would be held from July 9 to July 13.
The Senate contingent in the bicam is composed of Senators Juan Edgardo Angara, Aquilino “Koko” Pimentel, Sherwin Gatchalian, Joel Villanueva, Francis Escudero, Loren Legarda, Risa Hontiveros, Francis Pangilinan, Drilon, and Zubiri.
The Senate and the House passed their respective BBL measures that will abolish the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) and replace it with the Autonomous Region for the Bangsamoro (ARB) before Congress adjourned on May 30.
“I strongly believe that our version is more compliant to the provisions of the (1987) Constitution,” Drilon said in a radio interview.
“For example, in one of my amendments I said that all those residing in the Bangsamoro (region) are citizens of the Philippines. That’s one of the requirements to make it constitutional,” he said.
Asked whether the Senate version must prevail over the House version, Drilon said, “It is up to the [Senate] majority [bloc]. I don’t have the control.”
“I think our version, with due respect to Congress, will pass the test of constitutionality if someone questions it before the Supreme Court,” Zubiri said in another radio interview.
“They (senators) always add the phrase ‘within the framework of the 1987 Constitution,’ in the almost 150 amendments that they introduced to address issues on constitutionality,” he added.
Drilon said the Senate’s version maintains the 39 municipalities in North Cotabato as part of the territorial jurisdiction of the ARB. The House version deletes the 39 municipalities as part of the core areas that comprise the ARB.
“This could be a sticky point that both chambers should be able to smooth out when it goes to the bicameral conference committee for reconciliation,” he added.
He proposed various amendments to the Senate version “in order to make sure that the measure will not suffer the same fate as the Memorandum of Agreement on the Ancestral Domain (MOA-AD),” the proposed BBL crafted under the Arroyo administration.
The Senate adopted the changes to the powers to be given to the Bangsamoro proposed by Drilon, deleting provisions pertaining to the “reserved, concurrent and exclusive powers” of the Bangsamo government and removing the powers to conduct inquiries, in aid of legislation, and subpoena powers of the Parliament to be headed by a chief minister.
The House version retained the provisions on reserved, concurrent and exclusive powers.
In the version of the House of Representatives, the province of Palawan is included in the list of areas considered as historically part of Bangsamoro territory.
The Senate also added a provision stating that the Bangsamoro people are citizens of the Philippines pursuant to Article 4 of the Constitution, an amendment pushed by Drilon. The said provision is absent in the House version.
Drilon said the Senate and the House must “work hard” to reconcile their differences pertaining to the share of the national government of taxes collected in the Bangsamoro, other than tariff and customs duties.
The House proposed 25% share for the national government and 75% for Bangsamoro, while the Senate wanted a 50-50 sharing.
Also among the “sticky issues” that both chambers will have to reconcile is the prohibition on political dynasties, which is highly opposed by the Bangsamoro Transition Commission (BTC).
The Senate version prohibits a party representative from being related within the second degree of consanguinity or affinity to a district representative or another party representative in the same Parliament. There is no counterpart provision in the House version.
The Senate also provided a qualification on the “block grant” which states that when the national government incurs an unmanageable public sector deficit, the President of the Philippines is authorized, upon the recommendation of the Department of Finance (DoF) and Department of Budget and Management (DBM) secretaries to make the necessary adjustments in the block grant. The House version does not contain such a provision.
The Senate version also prevents the Bangsamoro Parliament from including the procurement of firearms, ammunition and explosives in its annual appropriations law. The House version does not contain such a provision.
The Senate proposed detailed provisions on the Bangsamoro Regional Police, including the selection of a regional director by the chief minister from a list of nominees submitted by the Philippine National Police Senior Officers Placement and Promotion Board.
In the House version, it is the secretary of the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) who will appoint the regional director.
The Senate also removed a provision for the creation of Shari’ah Judicial and Bar Council (JBC), which will recommend nominees to the Shari’ah Courts. The House retained the provision.