By Mario Casayuran
Senator Sherwin Gatchalian sought on Wednesday amendments in the proposed Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) to ensure that the terms of office of Bangsamoro elective local officials are consistent with the Constitution.
In yesterday’s debate on the BBL, Gatchalian cited one such provision as Article VII, Section 13 of the Senate version of the Bangsamoro Basic Law (Senate Bill No. 1717).
This provision, according to Gatchalian, states that the initial term of three years for members of the Bangsamoro Parliament (MPs) provided in the law would be “without prejudice to the power of the Bangsamoro Transition Authority (BTA) to include in the Election Code a new term of office.”
In his first interpellation on the measure, Gatchalian raised the issue of whether this provision would empower the BTA to lengthen the subsequent terms of by Bangsamoro MPs to more than three years.
After consulting members of the Bangsamoro Transition Commission (BTC) present at the deliberations, Sen. Juan Miguel Zubiri, the principal sponsor of Senate Bill (SB) 1717, confirmed that this provision could allow the lengthening of the term of office.
Gatchalian stressed the need to amend this provision in order to be consistent with the Constitution.
He argued that members of Parliament, being elective local officials, should not be allowed to serve more than three consecutive three-year terms, as stipulated in Article X, Section 8 of the 1987 Philippine Constitution.
Gatchalian likewise, stressed the importance of clarifying any provision that could be used to circumvent the three-term limit for local elective officials prescribed by the Constitution, such as the dissolution of Parliament.
Article VII, Section 37 of SB 1717 provides that the Wali (ceremonial head of the Bangsamoro government) shall dissolve Parliament upon the advice of the Chief Minister after a two-thirds vote of ‘’no confidence’’ cast by all the members of Parliament.
Gatchalian said that the provision should be refined to make it clear that the term served by incumbent MPs at the time of dissolution will be recognized as a full uninterrupted term – meaning that it will count against the three-term limit.
“Because if it’s an interrupted term, that means they can run again as if they were back to their original term. So, if you’re already on your third term and Parliament is dissolved, you can serve another three terms again. That’s a perpetual term already,” he explained.
“We just need to clear this up very well because it’s something that can be abused in the future,” he added.