By Vanne Elaine Terrazola
The Senate prevailed over the House of Representatives in pushing for the removal of the provisions specifying the powers of the national government under the proposed Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL).
Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon reported that the bicameral conference committee approved the Upper Chamber’s move to delete sections in the proposed law that define the “reserved” powers of the national government, the “exclusive” powers of the Bangsamoro government, and the “concurrent” powers of the two governments.
While House Bill 6475, which retained most of the proposals of the Bangsamoro Transition Commission, Senate Bill 1717 limited the powers of the proposed Bangsamoro government.
The Bicam agreed that “All powers, functions, and responsibilities granted by the Constitution or by law to the Autonomous Region of the Bangsamoro shall be vested in the national government.”
“I led the Senate contingent and the House was convinced that that is the better system…That is what the Constitution says and therefore, what we did is to enumerate the powers of the Bangsamoro government,” Drilon confirmed to reporters before the 29-member bicam committee convened its third meeting Wednesday.
Drilon said the so-called reserved powers was removed since the 1987 Constitution provides that powers not provided for in existing laws belongs to the national government. Enumerating concurrent or shared powers of the national and the Bangsamoro government, meanwhile, “will just cause confusion,” Drilon noted.
“I took the position that let us discuss what power should be devolved to the autonomous rather than debate on reserved powers and concurrent powers for two reason – number one, it is unconstitutional and number two, it will simply cause confusion in the process of making decisions,” Drilon explained.
The bicam-approved measure states that the Bangsamoro government shall have authority over economic and cultural exchange; loans with government banks or any other financial institutions; domestic and foreign investments as well as barter trade with ASEAN countries; creation of government-owned and/or controlled corporations; administration of its Shari’ah courts and justice system, among other powers.
Meanwhile, during the meeting with the bicameral conference committee members in Malacañang, the President helped resolve the impasse on the contentious provision on the issue of territory.
“Pleased to announce that the President facilitated the passage of the BBL by convincing the two Houses of Congress to adopt the House version of the BBL,” Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque said in a statement sent to reporters.
By adopting the House version, Roque said the six municipalities of Lanao Del Norte and the 39 barangays of North Cotabato could “vote to join the BBL territory in a referendum to be conducted on the mother territory of the areas involved.”
“With the President’s intervention citing constitutional provisions and the decision of the Supreme Court in the case of Umali, the passage of the BBL has been assured,” he added.
The bicam decided to consult the President in resolving territory and plebiscite issues.
The Senate version allows the concerned villages and municipalities to join the envisioned Bangsamoro region following a plebiscite.
The House version, on the other hand, stated that the local government units may join the territory based on the majority vote of the province.
Among the lawmakers present in the meeting were Senate President Vicente Sotto III, Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez, Senate Majority Leader Juan Miguel Zubiri, House Majority Leader Rudy Fariñas, and Senators Aquilino Pimentel III and Sonny Angara.