Senate ratifies Bangsamoro Law

Published July 23, 2018, 11:43 AM

by AJ Siytangco

By Hannah Torregoza

The Senate has ratified the bicameral conference committee report on the proposed Bangsamoro organic law (BOL) as the Senators resumed regular session on Monday.

The measure, to be called the “Organic Law for the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao,” would be submitted immediately to Malacañang for President Rodrigo Duterte’s signature.

(MANILA BULLETIN FILE PHOTO)
(MANILA BULLETIN FILE PHOTO)

Senate President Pro Tempore Ralph Recto manifested his approval of the bicameral report saying it essentially portrayed that most of the provisions in the Senate version of the proposed law prevailed.

Once signed by the President into law, a plebiscite shall be held for the supposed constituents of the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region, not earlier than 90 days and no later than 150 days after the effectivity of the BOL.

The Bangsamoro Organic Law will replace the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM). Included in the plebiscite are the original ARMM provinces such as Basilan, Sulu, Tawi-tawi, Lanao del Sur and Maguindanao.

Constituents of the six towns in Lanao del Norte and 39 barangays in North Cotabato will vote to determine if they want to belong to the Bangsamoro. But majority of voters in the mother units of these areas should also vote in favor of joining the Bangsamoro for these to be part of the territorial jurisdiction of the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region.

The Bangsamoro Transition Authority would be composed of 80 members appointed by President Duterte.

The proposed Bangsamoro law was forged as a peace agreement by President Benigno Aquino III, Duterte’s predecessor, with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF).

However, it failed to be approved following the deaths of the 44 Special Action Forces (SAF) troopers in a botched operation in Mamasapano, Maguindanao in January 2015.

The operation targeted Malaysian bomb maker Zulkilfi bin Hir alias “Marwan” and Filipino terrorist Basit Usman. But the SAF troopers had an encounter with Moro rebels in the town despite a ceasefire in place.

Senator Risa Hontiveros said she voted for the approval of the Bangsamoro bill as this is the upper chamber’s legislative expression of their commitment to the peace process.

“The BBL is our recognition of the justness and legitimacy of the cause of the Bangsamoro people. It is the legislative expression of our commitment to the peace process,” said Hontiveros, a member of the Senate minority bloc.

“The enactment of the ‘Organic Law for the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao’ is a good place to continue this long and overdue journey to a lasting and dignified peace,” Hontiveros said.

Hontiveros said she recognized that unlike most laws, the Bangsamoro organic law took an “incredibly long, tricky and arduous road.”

“But with the grace of Allah, here we all are. The entire process we went through—the deliberations on the bill, the public hearings in Mindanao, the arguments over provision per provision—was tedious and at times, frustrating.”

“That is why I salute all my fellow legislators, the peace advocates, the OPAPP (Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process), the Bangsamoro Transition Commission (BTC), whose steadfast commitment to the process is unparalleled,” Hontiveros said.

“The ratification today is a testament to our commitment to the democratic process. It is a sign that the system works. That all we needed was a shared and unwavering belief in justice and that all roads lead to peace,” she said.

Senate Majority Leader Juan Miguel Zubiri, sub-committee chair of the Senate committee on local government  that tackled the Bangsamoro basic law said he believes that the passage of the measure into law “is the dawn of a new beginning for Mindanao.”
 
“I believe this is the dawn of a new beginning for Mindanao. A dawn of peace followed by unhampered prosperity for our region, that I’m sure could catapult our economy to double-digit growth rates, and the effects felt all throughout the country,” Zubiri said.
 
“Many of our Filipino brothers and sisters do not really understand the Bangsamoro Organic Law as shown by the recent SWS survey. But what the people should know is that this law may have local application in the Bangsamoro region. But the peace and prosperity we hope to achieve there in this area will be felt from Batanes to Tawi-Tawi,” he further said.
 
Zubiri said he hopes the passage of the Bangsamoro organic bill into law would pave the way for more tourism and development in Mindanao.
 
“Gone will be the days of the battlefield shown in CNN and BBC and other international news media. Hopefully, (this) will pave the way for more tourism, for more investments not only in the country but especially in Mindanao. Finally, we can achieve a just and dignified peace for our brothers and sisters in Mindanao,” he said. 
 
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