SEN. GUINGONA: BBL MUST ENSURE PROTECTION OF NON-MUSLIMS
Senator Teofisto “TG” Guingona III on Wednesday called for revisions in the proposed Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) that will ensure the consistency of its provisions with the Constitution and the protection of minority communities living in the areas covered by the planned autonomous region.
Sen. Guingona bared his proposal to amend part of the preamble of the draft BBL which currently refers to the aspiration of “the Bangsamoro People.”
Sen. Guingona said this should instead read as “the inhabitants of the Bangsamoro,” a phrase which ensures “inclusiveness” and the “clear and unequivocal protection of the rights of non-muslim Filipinos” in that region.
“There are communities of indigenous and non-Muslim peoples in the areas proposed under the Bangsamoro,” he pointed out. “The BBL in its final form must ensure that they are treated equally and that their right to life, liberty and property are respected even if they are a minority,” he explained.
Sen. Guingona said this is also the reason why he is proposing the deletion of the third paragraph of the Preamble of the draft BBL which proclaimed the concept of “self-determination.”
He said he believes such word has been “misused” since what is guaranteed by the Constitution is territorial autonomy and “not ethnic autonomy.”
“Besides, the right of self-determination is already recognized under the Indigenous Peoples’ Rights Act which applies to all people who live in the planned autonomous region whether or not they are Muslims,” Sen. Guingona explained.
He expressed concern that the use of “self-determination” in the current draft “tends to exclude non-Muslim communities” which is “a mistake we must not repeat and perpetuate.”
Sen. Guingona also bared that he is proposing the use of the words “within the framework of the constitution” in the preamble of the draft BBL. The phrase replaces the words “in consonance with the constitution” in the current draft.
“This emphasizes that the BBL is clearly intended to be consistent with the constitution of the Republic,” Sen. Guingona said.
He had earlier warned that an “unconstitutional” BBL can delay the plebiscite where it will be ratified, and may result in more instability in the region.
“We cannot allow the further erosion of the people’s trust in the peace process by letting the BBL fail the challenges and test of constitutionality,” Sen. Guingona said.
“The Constitution remains the foundation of the peace process and the aspiration for an autonomous Bangsamoro,” he underscored.
Sen. Marcos Hopes No BBL Railroad In Senate
On the other hand, Senator Ferdinand “Bongbong” R. Marcos, Jr., Chairman of the Senate Local Government Committee, expressed hope the scenario that unfolded in the Bangsamoro Basic Law deliberations of the ad hoc committee of the House of Representatives will not happen in the Senate.
After a marathon 13-hour session, the House panel finished line-by-line voting on the 109-page draft bill, with the Malacanang version virtually intact save for some minor concessions to proposed amendments of BBL critics.
A progressive block of legislators in the Lower House cried “railroading” when the ad hoc panel, after meeting with the President twice, abandoned amendments previously discussed contained in the so-called “chairman’s draft” and pushed for an entirely new version.
“I don’t think so because our senators are very independent-minded,” Marcos replied when asked in a radio interview if he is concerned about the possibility the BBL will also be railroaded in the Senate.
Marcos said that in fact his meticulous and detailed scrutiny of the draft BBL was based on the suggestion of his fellow senators.
Still, Marcos said it could be expected for the members of the administration party and their allies to support the Palace version.
“But we are in constant communication with each other and I think that if it is evident that some provisions need amendment my fellow senators would support appropriate changes,” Marcos said.
Among others, Marcos said expected Senate amendments on BBL will focus on provisions on constitutional bodies, the so-called “opt-in provision” and the provision on Bangsamoro police.
So far, Marcos said that except from some billboard and media campaigns directed at him personally he has not felt any direct pressure on him to rush the passage of the BBL in his committee.
“Nobody has told me what to do. There were only reminders not to stop so we could not be seen as delaying the process. That’s why we have hearings (on BBL) practically every week,” Marcos said.
And after two more hearings for sectors who felt left out in the process, one on May 25 for the sultanates and indigenous people, and another on June 3 for local government officials, Marcos his panel could buckle down to the task of writing its report.
The senator has been saying that for BBL to work it should be all-inclusive and that it should be backed by popular support.
However, public attitude towards BBL has been eroded after the January 25 Mamasapano incident as reflected in the recent Social Weather Station survey showing only 23 percent of the Filipino people support the passage of the proposed law.
While interest in BBL was lacking at the start, Marcos said the sacrifice of the 44 Special Action Forces commandos slain in Mamasapano has directed public attention into the proposed law that would have a profound impact on Mindanao but on the entire country as well. /MP