Provision on territory causes deadlock in BBL bicameral body

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Children draw peace murals outside Malacañan Palace after the conclusion of the signing of the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro between the Philippine government and the MILF on March 27, 2014.

Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, July 10) — The bicameral conference committee tasked to resolve the current varying versions of the Bangsamoro Basic Law has come to a stalemate over the included territories in the new region.

Senate Majority Floor Leader Miguel Zubiri said Tuesday the Subcommittee on Territory on Plebiscite are contesting whether to include 39 barangays in Lanao del Norte and six municipalities in North Cotabato to be part of the Bangsamoro government's core territory.

He said the debate on the sub-committee level was so intense that they decided to "give it one more night to sleep on," and will resolve the issue on Wednesday.

"Diyan medyo madugo, and I understand the positions of the district congressmen, because it's a loss of territory for them, and medyo mabigat yan at malalim," Zubiri said.

[Translation: That's messy, and I understand the positions of the district congressmen, because it's a loss of territory for them, and that's a huge deal for them.]

The BBL will pave the way for the creation of the Autonomous Region in the Bangsamoro to replace the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) established in 1989 through Republic Act 6734. The ARMM consists of the provinces of Basilan, Lanao del Sur, Maguindanao, Sulu and Tawi-Tawi.

The Subcommittee on Territory and Plebiscite is composed of Zubiri, Senator Edgardo Angara, House Majority Floor Leader Rodolfo Fariñas, Lanao del Norte Representatives Khalid Dimaporo and Abdullah Dimaporo, and Zamboanga City Rep. Celso Lobregat.

With the bicameral conference committee targeting to come up with a final report on Wednesday, it has completed ironing out the provisions on the powers of government, taxes and fiscal autonomy, public order and national security, justice system, and the parliament form of government.

Provision to purchase firearms

The provision in the Senate version of the BBL denying the Bangsamoro government to purchase weapons and military equipment was also approved.

Zubiri, however, said some of those present during the deliberations of the provision were offended by the Senate's move, saying Senators had to apologize while insisting on their argument.

"What if 30 years down the line, when we are old and grey, there's a new brand of leadership goes into the Bangsamoro, and they're radicalized, and they want to try to secede, they try to do some foolishness, and they buy firearms, tanks, airplanes with these funds," Zubiri said.

"This law will not allow it. This provision will not allow that," he added.

As a compromise, the Senate has agreed to grant the Bangsamoro government taxing powers. It will also get automatic appropriations of its annual budget, and will no longer be required to submit reports.

Historic measure

Moro Islamic Liberation Front Vice Chair for Political Affairs Ghadzali Jaafar, who also chairs the Bangsamoro Transition Commission that crafted the second version of the BBL, stressed the importance of the proposed measure to the rebel group.

"The Moro have been fighting for a government of their own, for many many years, for almost 50 years. And now they are seeing the reality of that dream, to have a government. A government which is democratic and inclusive to everyone," Jaafar said.

Whatever the outcome of the final bicameral committee report will be, Jaafar said they will leave it up to the Bangsamoro people to accept it through a referendum.