Lawmakers OK common bill on Bangsamoro organic law

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, July 18) — Lawmakers tasked to iron out provisions of the proposed Bangsamoro Basic Law have approved a common version Wednesday ahead of its possible enactment on July 23 when President Rodrigo Duterte delivers his the State of the Nation Address.

The bill is called Organic Law for the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (OLBARMM). The 28-member bicameral conference committee approved it on the sixth day of its marathon deliberations that began on July 9. The committee reconciled Senate Bill 1717 and House Bill 6475.

"We approve the bicameral conference committee report, on the Bangsamoro Basic Law," Senate Majority Floor Leader Miguel Zubiri.

The measure will be forwarded to the President for review. He had certified the bill as urgent, so Congress could fast track its passage.

The bicameral committee report will now go back to the Senate and House of Representatives for ratification when the third regular session resumes Monday.

Once enacted, the OLBARMM provides for a plebiscite that will be held in the current Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao and other Mindanao provinces and cities in November.

Lawmakers threshed out contentious provisions in the bill, including the preamble, opt-in clause that determines the areas that will be further included in the autonomous region, block grant or funding for the region, covered areas, and generation, transmission, and distribution of resources.

The Bangsamoro Organic Law

The OLBARMM institutionalizes provisions of the Comprehensive Agreement on Bangsamaro, the 2014 peace agreement signed by the government and Moro Islamic Liberation Front that ended decades-long armed conflict in Mindanao.

"When the guns go silent in the island of Mindanao, that would be to the advantage of every Filipino, living east, north, south, west of our country," Zubiri said.

The proposed law paves the way for the creation of the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao, or Bangsamoro Autonomous Region, replacing the ARMM established in 1989 through Republic Act 6734. The ARMM groups the provinces of Basilan, Lanao del Sur, Maguindanao, Sulu and Tawi-Tawi.

The 18 articles of the OLBARMM outline authority in the region by assigning jurisdiction of reserved powers for the central government, exclusive powers of the Bangsamoro government, and concurrent powers for both the central and Bangsamoro governments.

The Bangsamoro government will be parliamentary-democratic in form, a first in the country's political history. It will be headed by the regional leader called Chief Minister, who will preside over an 80-member parliament.

Bipartisan support

Support for the historic measure crossed party lines among lawmakers.

"This was really a bipartisan support," Zubiri said.

While the MILF leadership said it finds the OLBARMM acceptable, lawmakers do not discount the possibility it could still be questioned before the Supreme Court.

"Definitely, there will be. Of course, that's their right. And we want them to bring it, para it will pass the test of constitutionality," House Majority Floor Leader Rodolfo Fariñas said.

This comes after the Supreme Court declared the Memorandum of Agreement on the Ancestral Domain (MOA-AD) unconstitutional in 2008. The MOA-AD proposed the creation of an autonomous political region in Mindanao with its own police, military and judicial systems.

Senate Minority Floor Leader Franklin Drilon earlier said he is confident the BBL version they would come up with will be constitutional.