Senate will stand firm on BBL changes—Zubiri

With political clans from Mindanao expected to challenge the proposed Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) in the Supreme Court, the Senate must make sure that the measure complies with the 1987 Constitution, Sen. Juan Miguel Zubiri said.

“[It] is important that the final outcome of the [work of the bicameral conference committee] is constitutionally compliant,” Zubiri told reporters at the Kapihan sa Senado forum on Thursday.

Passing the BBL, he said, is the last step in the government’s Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro (CAB) before the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) totally decommissions its fighters.

Revolutionary options

But Ghazali Jaafar, MILF vice chair for political affairs and chair of the Bangsamoro Transition Commission, said it remained to be seen whether the final BBL version was acceptable to the Moro people.

“If there’s no BBL [acceptable to the Moro people], there is no decommissioning for us. That’s a policy,” Jaafar said.

Speaking at the National Conference on the BBL held in Makati City on Wednesday, Jaafar said the MILF had “several options as a revolutionary organization” if the final law failed to deal with the roots of the decadeslong armed conflict in Mindanao.

“As revolutionary leaders, we will decide. Modesty aside, we are not trained to talk much but are trained to do more,” he told the audience that included Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana and military officials.


Lorenzana agreed with Jaafar and said that “the decommissioning was anchored on a law that will give the (MILF) some autonomy.”

Lawmakers plan to ratify the final version of the draft BBL when Congress resumes session on July 23, and send it to President Duterte for his signature before he delivers his State of the Nation Address on the same day.

Zubiri said the senators on the conference committee would insist on the provisions they added to ensure that the measure was constitutional.

Citizens of Philippines

The Senate amendments include the reiteration that the BBL adhere to the framework of the 1987 Constitution, the Bangsamoro is under the jurisdiction of the Republic of the Philippines, and that the people of the Bangsamoro region are citizens of the Philippines.

Among the more ticklish provisions are those about territorial jurisdiction, Zubiri said.

The CAB provides for a bigger Bangsamoro region, with wealth- and power-sharing arrangements with the central government.

Jaafar said “peace and order” was at stake in passing the BBL since a law that fell short of what was agreed upon in the 2014 peace agreement would not be accepted by breakaway groups, including the Maute and the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters.

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