Senate Sub-Committee on BBL to Come up with Final Report on February 14 as Valentines Gift to Bangsamoro

Cotabato City - “I assure my brothers in Mindanao that we (Senators) are here to work, and commit to submit the final report on the Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) on or before February 14, 2018 as our Valentines gift to the Bangsamoro”, Senator Juan Miguel “Migs” Zubiri, Chairman of the Sub-Committee on BBL stressed during the Joint Senate Public Hearing on the BBL held on January 25, 2018 at ORC Complex, ARMM Compound, Cotabato City.

Zubiri further stated that the Joint Senate Public Hearing is tasked to iron-out some questionable issues in the BBL, and shall submit the final report before March 31 before going on recess.

 After filing the SB No. 1646, I talked to Senator Risa Honteveros, and Senator Bam Aquino to withdraw their BBL version filed under Senate Bill (SB) No. 6054 to ensure the smooth sailing of the BTC draft BBL as the working document in the senate, Zubiri said.

 Zubiri admitted, however, that he also filed his own BBL version in the Senate but he eventually withdrew when President Rodrigo Duterte called him up last (Monday) January 15, 2018, and asked him a favor to sponsor the BTC draft BBL in the Senate. Then and there, the Mindanaoan lawmaker realized the wisdom of the President’s request, and didn’t think twice, filed, and sponsored the BBL crafted by BTC under SB No. 1646.

 Senator Zubiri introduced his colleagues who are equally working hard, and committed to complete the BBL final report within the second week of February. They are Senator Sonny Angara, Chairman of the Senate Committee on Local Government as the leading actors to the passage of the enhance BBL in Congress, Senator JV Ejercito, Chairman of the Senate Committee on Health, and Senator Riza Honteveros, member of the minority in the upper chamber, Zubiri said. 

The Four (4) Senators were not expecting seeing the huge crowd-bearing placards, and streamers comprising members of different CSO’s, NGO’s, members and supporters of “# SIGN BBL” who welcomed them at the entrance of the Shariff Kabunsuan Complex, ARMM compound, Cotabato City. 

A huge crowd composed of SWC Bandar members, including Madaris, and private schools’ students lined-up along the national highway from Tamontaka Bridge in Datu Odin Sinsuat up to the Quirino Bridge in Sultan Kudarat, Maguindanao, and onwards to Camp Darapanan in Sultan Kudarat town. Everyone were calling for “THE IMMEDIATE PASSAGE OF THE BBL IN CONGRESS”. 

Senator Sonny Angara, Chairman of the Senate Committee on Local Government expressed his commitment of support to the passage of the BBL, and said, “It’s time for the BBL in Mindanao”. President Duterte is a Mindanaoan, Senate President Aquilino Pimentel is a Mindanaoan, House Speaker Congressman Pantaleon Alvarez is also a Mindanaoan. 

“We appreciate your presence here, and we will ensure to enhance the BBL. Hindi po namin gagalawin ang BTC draft BBL, Kundi mas lalo pa naming ito pagagandahin,” Angara stated. 

Senator JV Ejercito, Chairman of the Senate Committee on Health clarified his stand on the peace process said; “I am not anti-Muslim as what has happened in the previous BBL”. 

“I am fully supporting the BBL right now because the current BBL is clear, and far differ from the previous one. Actually, when I was a mayor of San Juan for several terms. I have proven that Muslims and Christians can co-exist as business partners, and they can live together harmoniously as Filipinos,” Ejercito stressed.

Senator Risa Honteveros believes on the presentation of BTC Commissioner Mohagher Iqbal that the root cause of the armed conflict in Mindanao should be addressed through the passage of the BBL as it is political, not a legal issue. 

“Apparently, I have noticed that despite the so many people here - nobody is against the BBL. Meaning to say, BBL is an end itself, if ratified into law the BBL can unify the whole Filipino people. Kung kaya’t ipanalo natin ito sa Congress,” Honteveros said.

BTC Chairman and MILF Central Committee 1ST Vice Chairman Ghazali Jaafar in his message acknowledged, and welcomed the presence of the four (4) distinguished, and honorable senators who are members of the Senate Sub-Committee on BBL that is working on the proposed Bangsamo Law. 

Jaafar related the background of the BTC draft BBL provisions as compliant on the CAB, no less, no more. And, we will not debate with the senators and congressmen but we will explain why such provisions are needed for the establishment of the Bangsamoro to regain their right to self-determination (RSD). 

Iqbal, MILF Peace Implementing Panel Chairman, and Chairman of the Committee on Information of the MILF-Central Committee in his presentation on “Revisit of Moro History and Search for Peace in Mindanao” has contributed a lot to enlighten the senators on the truth behind the Bangsamoro historical injustice, and to regain the Moro right to self-determination (RSD) as the only means to establish a dignified, and lasting peace in Mindanao. 

ARMM governor Mujib Hataman when asked by Senator Zubiri regarding his comments or suggestions on the BBL that could contribute a lot to the Bangsamoro Government, Hataman said that number 1: By giving a full autonomy to Bangsamoro; 2: By granting Block Grants for the Bangsamoro; and 3: Let the Bangsamoro decide their own infra projects to be implemented as they knew best on what priority projects they need in their areas or communities.

Hataman belied the perceptions of some senators, and Filipino leaders in Manila that Bangsamoro has no capability to govern themselves. 

“Within two years of my term as ARMM governor, the region was first certified as ISO in the entire Mindanao region. That even the adjacent regions, and provinces who were criticizing my administration has never been certified as ISO province. Meaning, we have proven that Bangsamoro has the skills, and capability to govern the Bangsamoro new political entity, Hataman stressed.

Maguindanao Governor Esmael “Toto” Mangudadatu in his short message said; Ibalik na natin ang nararapat para sa Bangsamoro. This is my sincerest appeal to the Congress for the immediate passage of the BBL to attain just and lasting peace in Mindanao.

North Cotabato Governor Lala Talino Mendoza through her representative Datu Kellie Antao, a member of the Sangguniang Panlalawigan of North Cotabato expressed her full support to the peace process.

The Sanggunian Panlalawigan of North Cotabato has submitted at least seven (7) Resolutions to the GPH, and MILF Peace Panel supporting the ongoing peace process in Mindanao. 

“We know what should be done in the interest of the public. Let us not miss this chance of the Bangsamoro for congress to pass the BBL,” Talino urged in her message read by Antao.