“It’s really take it or leave it.”
That’s how Cagayan de Oro City Rep. Rufus Rodriguez, chairman of the House of Representatives’ 75-man ad hoc committee on the Bangsamoro Basic Law, explained the concensus of congressmen that they will not the BBL’s unconstitutional provisions even if waters down the measure.
“We will pass what is acceptable,” Rodriguez said in a media briefing, adding that lawmakers will not cave in to political pressure or threats of continued rebellion.
“[The MILF] should not threaten the government. The government is ready to meet any challenge after the bill is pass into a law,” Rodriguez added.
Rodriguez insisted that the Palace-proposed BBL contained provisions which constitutional and legal experts said were unconstitutional.
They included provisions authorizing the new Bangsamoro administration to have its own version of the Commission on Elections; Ombudsman; Civil Service Commission; Commission on Audit; and Commission on Human Rights, creating its defense and police forces.
Rodriguez said that the ad hoc panel would also delete a provision in the BBL allowing other areas outside the Bangsamoro territory to also join the entity upon a petition of at least 10 percent of the constituents as it may also be declared unconstitutional.
He said the ad hoc committee will resume its discussion on the BBL under executive session from April 20 to 30.
Meanwhile, in the Senate, Senator Chiz Escudero wants to adopt line-item budgeting for the P70 billion that the proposed Bangsamoro government would purportedly receive after the passage of the law.
“I don’t question the amount per se. I have always said that Mindanao should get its fair share from the government. But we want to know how, where, when and who will spend this. Will it be beneficial to all Bangsamoro people? Will it go to where it should go?” Escudero, chairman of the Senate finance committee.
He noted that itemizing the budget will also show redundancy of funding as already shown in the lump sum proposal.
“Let’s face it. The government is providing P70 billion in one swoop, and every Filipino contributed his or her hard earned money there. We want to know if this will be spent fairly and judiciously to all Bangsamoro people, whether they belong with the MILF or not.”
Escudero has come out with a breakdown of the total funding under the Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) proposal, said the spending package could still go up.
“This is just a ballpark figure. They can impose taxes and fees and charges on their own. They can explore and exploit natural resources and these have not yet been factored in,” he said.
Based on the computation of the finance committee, P25.2 billion of the P70 billion will come from the Annual Block Grant; P7 billion from the Special Development Fund; P1 billion from the Transition Fund; P12.6 billion from the National Government Subsidy; P19.9 billion from the Internal Revenue Allotment (IRA); P1.7 billion from the ARMM/Bangsamoro collections; and a one-time P2.6 billion Normalization Fund.
He said these allocations do not include revenue-generating measures that the Bangsamoro government is empowered to impose such as taxes and fees.
“The current ARMM-IRA share for 2015 is at P18 billion. In the additional LGU (local government unit) under the BBL proposal, there is an additional P1.80 billion share, which makes the IRA share at P19.8 billion. BBL still wants a continuous IRA share coming from different parts of the Philippines even after the law is passed, but the national government will not have a single centavo share from their IRA,” Escudero explained.
He also debunked the position of government peace negotiators that the BBL does not have a high price tag in terms of budget. He said the Annual Block Grant alone, which is by far the biggest amount among the breakdown, seems to have been left out in terms of numbers in the proposal.
He said the proposal did not specify the exact amount of this fund.
“But take note that under Article XII, Section 15 of the BBL proposal, the block grant cannot be lower than the last budget received by the ARMM. For 2015, ARMM received P25.22 billion,” he said.
“We are pouring in so much money in the region. What are we, our people, getting out of it? That’s why we have to study it carefully, specify all items carefully, fairly and judiciously,” added the senator.