By Genalyn Kabiling and Charissa Luci-Atienza
The two houses of Congress are expected to ratify today the proposed Bangsamoro Organic Law (BOL) in time for President Duterte’s third State of the Nation Address (SONA).
Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process Jesus Dureza said the Bangsamoro Organic Law will usher in the start of “a better Mindanao and much better Philippines” once it is signed by President Duterte.
A reconciled version of the bill creating the Bangsamoro autonomous region was recently approved by the bicameral conference committee.
“On Monday morning, both chambers the House are expected to ratify the proposed bill approving the Bangsamoro Organic Law. When President Duterte affixes his signature into the law, the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region for Muslim Mindanao (BARMM) is legally entrenched,” Dureza said.
“How it will bring about the long-dreamed of aspiration of every Muslim is then left in their hands. We trust it will be a new beginning of a better Mindanao and much better Philippines,” he added.
Asked about the signing of the measure on Monday, Dureza said: ”Let’s wait until it happens tomorrow. That is everybody’s wish”
For now, Dureza acknowledged that the approval of the bill by the bicameral committee was already a “milestone.” “It’s a long awaited dream coming true for the Bangsamoro,” he added.
The government is optimistic the envisioned Bangsamoro autonomous region would foster lasting peace and economic development in Mindanao.
The “landmark” proposed Bangsamoro Organic Law that replaces the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) is expected to be signed by President Duterte on Monday, according to his spokesman Harry Roque.
The bill, which creates the Bangsamoro region with a bigger territorial jurisdiction pending a plebiscite and greater fiscal autonomy, was recently approved by a bicameral conference committee nearly a week after deliberations.
“We expect the Bangsamoro Organic Law to be signed before the President’s State of the Nation Address,” Roque said.
“We acknowledge the hard work of Congress and the Bangsamoro Transition Commission (BTC) that brought us this historic law which would not only forge lasting peace in Mindanao but would also provide the much needed economic development in the island,” he added.
Roque said while the public was neutral about the bill based on the latest survey results, the Palace still considers “this landmark measure as instrumental to our peace and security efforts in Mindanao.”
The approval of the bicameral version came a year after the the Bangsmoro commission, including representatives from the Moro Islamic Liberation Front, submitted a draft BBL to the President and Congress.
Earlier, the President certified the bill as urgent to hasten its passage in Congress. He repeatedly warned that trouble may erupt anew in Mindanao if the proposed Bangsamoro bill is not passed soon.
Once signed, the Bangsamoro basic law would implement the peace agreement forged by the government and the MILF in 2014 in a bid to end the decades-old conflict in the south.
The region will be composed of the ARMM provinces, namely Basilan, Lanao del Sur, Maguindanao, Sulu, and Tawi-Tawi, with the possibility of several other areas joining if they decide to vote during a plebiscite. The bill also proposes a 75-25 wealth-sharing term in favor of the Bangsamoro region.
Dureza, meantime, expressed hope that the public will eventually support the proposed Bangsamoro region after a survey showed most Filipinos were neutral about the bill.
He noted that the survey results were taken before the measure’s approval by the bicameral committee.
“Take note that the issues that did not resonate well with the public had been addressed by our learned members of both chambers,” he said.
“I am confident the passage of the law by the signing of the President hopefully will garner support from the public. So let’s wait for those next survey results, assuming those are honest to goodness surveys that are not propaganda efforts of some biased sectors,” he added.
Isabela Rep. Rodito Albano, who is part of the 28-man bicameral conference commitee on the peace measure and Southern Leyte Rep. Roger Mercado expressed hope that the BOL which calls for the creation of a Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM) would be ratified by Congress and would be signed by President Duterte either before or during his third State of the Nation Address (SONA).
Mercado said they are bound to ratify the Bangsamoro Basic Law. “We will ratify it,” he said.
Anak Mindanao party-list Rep. Amihilda Sangcopan, also a member of the bicameral conference committee on the BOL, expressed confidence on Congress’ ratification of the BOL and the signing of the law before the President’s SONA.
“The BOL that we approved was not watered-down. The new Bangsamoro would have greater regional government, a parliament, fiscal autonomy, and justice system and that can withstand constitutional scrutiny before the Supreme Court (SC),” she said.
For his part, AKO BICOL party-list Rep. Rodel Batocabe, president of the House party-list coalition bloc said, “Our bicameral members took a lot of time to fine tune it into a well- crafted compromise bill.”
Last week, House Majority Floor Leader and Ilocos Norte Rep. Rodolfo “Rudy” Fariñas said they would submit the bicameral report on the peace measure for ratification on Monday.
Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez earlier said they could ratify the BOL in the morning and send it to Malacanang by afternoon of July 23 for the President’s signature.
In a radio interview yesterday, House Secretary General Cesar Strait Pareja said they expect the ratification of the bicameral conference committee report on the proposed Bangsamoro Organic Law when Congress convenes its Third Regular Session on Monday morning and the subsequent signing of the peace measure into law by the President in the afternoon.
He also assured that all is set for President’s SONA which will be attended by former Presidents, members of the judiciary, and dignitaries.
Except for President Duterte’s predecessor, former President Benigno Aquino III, former president Joseph Estrada, Fidel Ramos, and Gloria Macapagal Arroyo have confirmed their attendance.