Lawmakers, transition body members clash over BBL preamble

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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 18) — A committee of senators and representatives ironing out provisions of the proposed Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) has come up with a final version, but the portion of the preamble caused tension among different parties.

Senate Majority Floor Leader Miguel Zubiri said Wednesday the preamble, or the Organic Act introductory statement, became a contentious issue on Tuesday when House Majority Floor Leader Rudy Fariñas proposed to amend the first line of the preamble from "We, the Bangsamoro people" to "We, the Filipino people."

"How can the Bangsamoro people be writing an organic law, a basic law? They cannot. It's Congress of the Philippines, and the Congress of the Philippines is a creation of the Filipino people," Fariñas said.

Zubiri said the last-minute amendment almost endangered the deliberations, as the Bangsamoro Transition Commission (BTC), especially those from the Moro Islamic Liberation Front, strongly opposed the move.

Zubiri had to call for a special caucus between the bicameral committee and the BTC to resolve the issue.

"Ang dami kong natatanggap na text from the leadership of the different stakeholders, na galit na galit sila. Magwo-walk out daw sila. Hindi katanggap tanggap," Zubiri said.

"I had to suspend because serious implications to the peace agreement if they would stand up and walk away, hindi naman tama yan," he added.

Zubiri said, however, the issue was already resolved with the BTC on Tuesday. He added the BTC has agreed on a "special language," referring to the Bangsamoro people in the preamble, which the committee was expected to approve Wednesday.

"There was no agenda for diminishing ARMM (autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao), or diminishing the gains of the bicam meetings that we had last week. These were just correcting, or cleaning up certain provisions that we felt, would better stand the test of constitutionality at the Supreme Court," he said.

As the bicameral committee report was done on Wednesday, the panel's sixth day of deliberations, it will be forwarded to President Rodrigo Duterte for review.

The President then has to decide whether to sign the proposed measure into law before delivering his third State of the Nation Address on Monday, July 23.

If the BBL is signed into law, a plebiscite will be held in ARMM and in other provinces and cities in Mindanao in November.

The BBL will pave the way for the creation of the Autonomous Region in the Bangsamoro to replace the 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 BBL outlines 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.