SIGNBBL Chairman Hadji Duma Mascud stressing his points during the Senate Hearing on BBL on February 5, 2018

SIGNBBL Network Leaders participate in BBL Congressional Hearings

Quezon City - Six network leaders belonging to the Sustainable Initiatives of Grassroots and Networks for the Bangsamoro Basic Law (SIGNBBL) participated this week in the on-going hearings of the Senate and House of Representatives on the Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL).

Speaking for the group at the Monday’s 6th Senate Hearing on BBL, SIGNBBL Chairman Hadji Duma Mascud appealed to senators for consideration of important provisions contained in the Bangsamoro transition Commission-Crafted Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) now known as Senate Bill 1646 sponsored by Sen. Juan Miguel Zubiri.

When enacted into law, the BBL will entrench a new political entity called Bangsamoro Region. 

Mr. Mascud underscored others provisions that include asymmetrical relationship, territory, exclusive, and concurrent powers, wali, judicial system, and policing. 

Mr. Mascud told the senators that it is the clamor of the people particularly in the six municipalities of Lanao del Norte, and 39 barangays of the North Cotabato to become part of the Bangsamoro as they already voted for inclusion in ARMM during the 2001 plebiscite. 

Emphasizing on the need to address the marginalization of the Bangsamoro people for decades, Mr. Mascud believes that the annual block grant should even be 8 percent, and not 6 percent (as proposed) based on the computation of civil society groups.  

Sen. Juan Miguel Zubiri, Chairman of the Senate Sub-committee on BBL told the people inside the senate hall that there was already a caucus among his colleagues to give the proposed block grant.  Senators Loren Legarda, and Joel Villanueva shared the same information, and believed and committed “to give fiscal autonomy” to the Bangsamoro.    

Mascud explained that “Wali is based on Bangsamoro tradition as a requirement for a government being envisioned by the Bangsamoro has already been the subject of scrutiny by lawmakers in previous hearings. 

He reminded the senators that the proposed Sharia’h Judicial System (which only covers the Muslims), exclusive, and concurrent powers are equally important to the Bangsamoro people as they are part of the GPH-MILF peace agreement. 

While some groups are lukewarm on granting police power to the Bangsamoro, the CSO leader pointed out that even barangays need augmentation of police forces in order to satisfy the requirement for internal security.

As Sen. Zubiri is forming a Technical Working Group (TWG) to harmonize the points for consideration by the senate, Mr. Mascud suggested for the participation of SIGNBBL which the senator took note.  

Mr. Mascud was joined by other five network leaders namely: Dr. Ombra A. Imam, Supreme Council Chairman of the League of Bangsamoro Organization (LBO); Bainon Karon, former Regional Vice Governor, and DSWD Secretary of ARMM who is the President of Federation of Union of Bangsamoro Women (FUBW); Mr. Nasser Pulindao, Vice President of Federation of Bangsamoro Civil Society Organizations (FBCSO); Ms. Baby Dalgan, Representative of North Cotabato Coalition of People’s Organization(NCCPO); and Mr. Romie Gualil, Board Member of People’s Coalition for ARMM Reform and Transformation (PCART).  

Launched on September 19, 2017 in Cotabato City, SIGNBLL is composed of 15 coalitions of coalitions with around 2,000 civil society organizations’ members representing various sectors from all-over the country. It was established primarily to help push for the passage of the BTC-crafted BBL which is compliant to the 2014 Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro, 1976 Tripoli Agreement, and 1996 GRP-MNLF Final Peace Agreement.

Meanwhile at the lower house on Tuesday, SIGNBBL served as audience only but they were able to get relevant inputs, and issues being raised by House representatives.  CSO leaders observed that at least majority of congressmen were supportive of the passage of the substantive features of BBL as proposed except for congressmen Celso Lobregat, Mohammad Khalid Dimaporo, and Prospero Pechay who raised strong oppositions on some important provisions such as territory, rights to self-determination, opt-in and opt-out, use of Bangsamoro, and enhancement of ARMM instead of BBL. 

After the hearing at the lower house, the CSO leaders were able to talk to some congressmen. During the exchange of views, Dr. Imam emphasized to Rep. Welter Wee Palma II of Zamboanga Sibugay that the issue of constitutionality in the BBL should be left to the Supreme Court as the final interpreter of the law.  The LBO leader reminded Cong. Palma the widespread belief that the right moment to pass BBL is now because of the current political climate whereby the president is very popular and influential in both houses of congress, which the congressman well agreed.      

In partnership with Community Organizers Multiversity (COM), SIGNBBL started its lobbying at the Senate and House of Representatives in November and December last year and it continued in January this year and was successful to attend this month’s BBL hearing. 

It also conducted series of provincial BBL-related activities in ARMM areas, North Cotabato and Sultan Kudarat provinces.  It spearheaded the gathering of thousands of Bangsamoro people including students lining on the street with their placards as a show of support to BBL, and Sen. Zubiri who led the BBL public hearing on January 25, 2018 in Cotabato City.