CONGRESS should give priority to passing the Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) instead of amending the Constitution because the creation of a Bangsamoro autonomous state would be a “good model to see if federalism works,” Senator Juan Miguel Zubiri said Friday.
“We have a big stake here. This will dictate whether we will have war or peace in Mindanao. This is a way to see if this (federalism) will really work on a smaller scale,” said Zubiri, chairman of the Senate subcommittee on the BBL.
He said the Bangsamoro Transition Commission (BTC) proposes the creation of two substates—one covering Basilan, Sulu, and Tawi-Tawi and the other covering the mainland autonomous state made up of Maguindanao and Lanao del Sur.
Zubiri said he hoped the Senate would pass the BBL on second and third reading by March, after the BTC has removed provisions that are seen to be unconstitutional.
He conceded, however, that some provisions would remain contentious, such as the creation of a parliamentary government.
“But why not give them a chance to run it as a parliament?” Zubiri said.
“I’m willing to give this a chance. This is, of course, a very big leap [from]... the status quo, but I’m willing to give this a chance especially because extremism is on the rise again,” he added.
Senate President Pro Tempore Ralph Recto, on the other hand, pressed Finance and Budget officials to compute the “price tag” of the BBL, saying that a “clear fiscal picture” will pave the way for BBL’s passage.
“We are all for financing peace. I prefer a costly peace than a cheap war. But the nation must be told how heavy the burden on the taxpayers will be. How many billions of pesos are we talking about? And how long would we keep paying?” Recto said in a mix of English and Filipino.
Recto said debate on BBL will center on “constitutionality and cost.”
“It is not that hard to make the bill constitutionally-compliant, which is what President Duterte wants,” Recto said. “But what I think might be contentious is where to source the money required to implement the bill.”