Sen. Zubiri downplays amendments made on BBL would weaken an approved law

Cotabato City- Senate Majority Leader Juan Miguel Zubiri, Chair of the Joint Senate Committee on Bangsamoro Bassic Law (BBL) downplays fears of various sectors that amendments to the approved version of the Bangsamoro Basic Law would water down the powers originally proposed for the new juridical entity that would replace the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao.

"Itong amendments naman, sabihin ko, ay lalong nagpatibay ng BBL. Kaya hindi po ako naniniwala sa nagsasabi na may nagsasabi na taga-ARMM na this is ARMM-minus daw, hindi ARMM-plus," Zubiri said on radio as quoted by GMA Newsline.

Zubiri made the statement days before the start of the bicameral conference committee consultations on the BBL.

"Hindi po totoo 'yan kasi ang aming pananaw ay mas maganda pa po sa original na ARMM law. Nevertheless, titignan po namin ang mga complaints nila at mga hinihiling nila ... may listahan naman po kami," he added.

Zubiri said restoring some provisions as requested by the Bangsamoro Transition Commission is "doable."  "Pero 'yung iba hindi yata namin maibigay." He was referring to the Bangsamoro police and military that are solely under the national government.

In the interview, Zubiri said, "For example, 'yung sa police. Iisa lang naman ang hiningi niya (President Rodrigo Duterte) sa House and Senate nu'ng nagmeeting po kami sa Malacañang na pagdating sa police at armed forces, dapat sa ilalim po ito ng Philippine National Police at sa Armed Forces of the Philippines.”

"Para sa gano'n hindi naman po magkakaroon ng armed groups, diba 'yung mga private armies, kasi 'yun ang naging problema noong araw," he added.

Nevertheless, Zubiri said they have identified "contentious" provisions that were all set for initial discussions on the bicameral committee report on Monday morning with the House panel to be led by House Majority Leader Rodolfo Fariñas.

"Hopefully maayos naman po natin at maging acceptable sa lahat ang aming pag uusapan naman po ang BBL na maipapasa namin next week," he said.

Zubiri’s statement came at a time where various sectors in Mindanao, especially civil Society Organizations (CSOs) launched mass rallies in major cities like Cotabato City, Marawi City, including the provinces of Sulu, Basilan, Tawi-Tawi, and Baloi, Lanao Del Norte urging the Bicameral Conference Committee members to restore the deleted, or amended provisions made on the BTC-Crafted BBL by the Senate and House of Representatives on May 30, 2018.

Furthermore, men on the ground throughout the core territory are enthusiastic on the outcome of the bicam conference, all hoping that the government will ultimately put an end to violence, animosity, conflict, and would be replaced by peace, harmony and progress in the Moro Homeland.

The said mass gatherings were attended by tens of thousands of people from all walks of life in Mindanao.

The BBL is a legal instrument that will implement the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro (CAB) signed by the Government of the Philippines, and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) in Manila on August 27, 2014.