Congressmen may ‘go home in tears’ on BBL territory issue — Zubiri

Published July 10, 2018, 8:06 PM

by Roel Tibay

By Ellson Quismorio

Senate Majority Leader Juan Miguel Zubiri claimed Tuesday that some of his fellow lawmakers from the House of Representatives may “go home in tears” on matters of territory and plebiscite in the proposed Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL), which the two chambers are trying their best to harmonize.

“Merong uuwi nang luhaan in this particular issue (Somebody will go home in tears on these particular issues), on territory and plebiscite,” Zubiri told House and Senate reporters during briefing at Crowne Plaza Hotel in Pasig City.

“It’s just managing the outcome. Because anything we do here, we make a make a mistake on the Shariah provision, we make a mistake on the public order and safer provisions, we make a mistake on even the powers given to the Bangsamoro…may ano yan eh, may katapat din na outcome (That will have a resulting outcome). Whether frustration on the MILF side or frustration on the supporters of the Bangsamoro,” he said.

Tuesday marked the second day of the high-stakes Bicameral Conference Committee meetings for the BBL, which for years has been described as the best instrument for peace in strife-torn Mindanao.

But a major roadblock to the consolidation of the House and Senate versions of the BBL is arriving at a compromise on the fate of some 39 barangays in North Cotabato and six towns in Lanao del Norte under the landmark law.

The BBL is the enabling law of the 2014 Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro (CAB) between the Philippine government and secessionist group Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF). It seeks to establish the Bangsamoro juridical entity, which will replace the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM).

The House version says that the 39 villages and six towns–which are currently part of the ARMM)–need to meet two levels of inclusion before they could be made part of the Bangsamoro entity. The first is for these villages and towns to vote “yes” for their inclusion in the plebiscite, with the second being the majority vote of all the residents of their respective provinces (North Cotabato, Lanao del Norte).

In the Senate version, the “yes” vote in the plebiscite would be the sole basis for inclusion. This means that the affected congressmen could lose parts of their jurisdictions outright.

Since Monday, the House contingent to the Bicam led by House Majority Leader Rodolfo Fariñas has been tight-lipped on the developments in the meetings.

After Zubiri’s briefing–his second in two days–the congressmen reportedly held a closed-door meeting by themselves supposedly to prepare for the final stretch of the Bicam where the most contentious issues would be tackled.

The congressman-only meeting was still ongoing as of press time.

Zubiri noted that the congressmen opposing the one-level inclusion were doing so out of “historical reasons.”

“Sakin kasi trabaho lang ito (To me, this is just a job I have to do). This is a job that I was asked to…take this task, to defend the BBL in the Senate, being a Mindanaoan…this is a job that I take very seriously,” Zubiri said.

“But for them (congressmen) kasi it’s more personal because they are the representatives, so they have a personal stake as well,” said the Senate Majority Leader, adding, “My heart goes out to them.”

He declined to name the affected House members, but said that two of them were part of the 19-man House Bicam panel. The Senate panel has 10 members, including Zubiri. (Ellson A. Quismorio)