PRESIDENT Rodrigo Duterte said he will not approve a Bangsamoro Basic Law that would create a fissure in government as he rejected again proposals to create a Bangsamoro police and military force.
The President made the statement days after he certified as urgent the versions of the BBL before the House of Representatives and the Senate.
“On the BBL, I might as well be frank. I will accommodate, I will move the extra mile but never would I agree that there will be a fissure somewhere,” he said in a press briefing late Saturday night.
“The Philippine National Police will remain one line to the last barangay tanod. The Armed Forces of the Philippines will only have one command from the Chief of Staff down,” Duterte said.
Presidential Spokesman Harry Roque said Duterte’s decision to reject proposals for a separate police and military for the proposed new autonomous region has already been conveyed to members of the Bangsamoro Transition Commission.
“The contentious issue that the President decided on is there can be no separate Bangsamoro police and separate Bangsamoro armed forces, which the BTC wants,” Roque said.
The House version of the substitute BBL already had marked differences from the one proposed by the BTC.
The version passed by the House slashed the proposed annual block grant from 6 percent to 5 percent of national internal revenue and Customs collections. It also removed the proposed periodic plebiscites that would have allowed for the Bangsamoro region’s repeated expansion for the next 25 years. The House also increased the number of “reserved powers” of the national government from only nine to 20, including powers over the armed forces, police, jail management, elections, and coast guard, among others.
The Senate version of the BBL is even more different from the BTC version, but senators said it is “more compliant” with the 1987 Constitution.
Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon said there were at least 10 “significant differences” between the Senate and the House versions. Senators wanted a ban on political dynasties, a provision that was “highly opposed” by the BTC, Drilon said. The Senate also deleted provisions on “reserved, concurrent and exclusive powers” of the proposed Bangsamoro government.
Moro Islamic Liberation Front vice chairman for political affairs Ghadzali Jaafar said the MILF would prefer if the final version to be passed by the bicameral conference is as close as possible to their proposed BBL.
“We want our proposals to be included in the final version. If not all, then at least the final version should not be diluted or watered down,” he said in a recent television interview.
Roque said the President is counting on all stakeholders “to work together” for the passage of a BBL “that is acceptable to all and will withstand the test of judicial scrutiny.”
“It is really a process of give and take...Otherwise we won’t have a BBL,” Roque said.
Zamboanga City Rep. Celso Lobregat on Sunday urged fellow lawmakers, including senators, to address in a bicameral conference committee meeting next month the remaining controversial provisions of the proposed BBL that could spark a constitutional challenge.
He, along with Lanao del Norte Rep. Abdullah Dimaporo, recently abstained during the plenary voting of the BBL measure, clarifying his stance that he just wanted to ensure that all provisions of the bill were constitutionally compliant.
“I think none of us is opposing [the BBL]. We are opposed to certain provisions that are unconstitutional or disadvantageous, but many of these have already been addressed. Not all, but substantial,” he said.
Lobregat, a member of the bicameral conference committee, said they would meet from July 9 to July 13 to harmonize the disagreeing provisions of the BBL bill.
“Well, I am substantially satisfied, not fully, but substantially,” he said.
He said the Shariah court should still be under the Supreme Court in the final version of the BBL.
“I think there were [amendments]. For me, the Shari’ah court shouldn’t be a high court. It should be an appellate court and it should not have jurisdiction on criminal cases,” he said.
Anak Mindanao Rep. Amilhilda Sangcopan, who voted for the passage of the BBL, called on the bicameral conference committee not to pass a watered-down peace bill.