By Charissa Luci-Atienza
House Majority Leader Rodolfo Fariñas insisted Wednesday night that the hierarchy of our government will be distorted if 39 barangays in North Cotabato will be allowed to join the Bangsamoro Region without the approval of their respective provinces.
He confirmed that President Duterte was able to convince both houses of Congress to adopt the House version of the Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) which provides that the six municipalities in Lanao Del Norte and the 39 barangays in North Cotabato could vote to join the Bangsamoro territory in a referendum to be conducted on the mother territory of the involved areas.
The Ilocos Norte lawmaker, who chairs the bicameral conference committee meetings on BBL, said the President was able to address the deadlock on territory and plebiscite issues.
“It was I who defended our version, citing the Constitution and the jurisprudence in Umali v. COMELEC, where the Supreme Court ruled that in the matter of the conversion of Cabanatuan City into a highly urbanized City, the voters of the whole province of Nueva Ecija had to participate in its ratification as the province is directly affected by such conversion,” Fariñas said.
He made the statement after Presidential spokesperson Harry Roque announced that the Chief Executive facilitated the passage of the BBL by convincing both the Lower and Upper Chambers to adopt the House version of the bill.
He said the House bill provides that in the case of the 39 barangays in North Cotabato, the municipalities to which they belong shall participate in the plebiscite.
“To allow them join the Bangsamoro Region without the approval of their respective provinces is worse because in the event that the yes vote wins for them to join the Bangsamoro Region, they won’t belong to any province. They won’t belong to any municipality. That would be an abomination,” Fariñas told reporters.
“In that case, they will be province-less and they would have to reach out directly to the Chief Minister. The hierarchy of our government will be distorted. That would leave these places in an anomalous situation,” he said.
Citing Section 10, Article X of the Constitution, he said it clearly states that “no province, city, municipality, or barangay may be created, divided, merged, abolished, or its boundary substantially altered, except in accordance with the criteria established in the Local Government Code and subject to approval by a majority of the votes cast in a plebiscite in the political units directly affected.”
Fariñas also explained that special courts like Shariah cannot be given jurisdiction over criminal cases as the Constitution clearly provides in Section 18, Article X, that -the Congress shall enact an organic act, which shall likewise provide for special courts with personal, family, and property law jurisdiction consistent with the provisions of this Constitution and national laws.
“Thus, Congress can only grant them special courts with personal, family, and property law jurisdiction. ”
The subcommittee on justice headed by Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon rolled up its sleeves yesterday afternoon to polish the provisions on the Shari’ah Justice System.
Roque said the passage of the BBL has been assured with the President’s intervention.
He said the President will sign the BBL law before his third State of the Nation Address (SONA).
Fariñas disclosed that the BBL bicameral meetings, which started on Monday, July 8 may extend until next week.
“We will be start winding up our meetings tomorrow, Thursday, from noon onwards, at the House of Representatives, and may extend until Monday, July 16,” he said.
The first day of conference committee deliberations held on July 9, 2018 already covered 14 of the 18 articles of the BBL.
The bicameral panel aims to come up with a clean bill to be ratified by July 23, 2018 when the third regular session of the 17th Congress convenes.
The passage of the BBL was derailed during the 16th Congress following the bloody massacre of 47 members of Special Action Force (SAF) in Mamasapano, Maguindanao in January 2015.