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Posted on 14 April 2015 by cbcs_mike

More than sixty (60) leaders coming from different Church denominations and peace advocates in Mindanao converged in a dialogue<!–more–> with Congressman Rufus Rodriguez, chairman of the 75-member AdHoc Committee on Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) who is tasked to finalize it before its deliberation in Congress plenary. Also with him is Congressman Maxime Rodriguez from a party-list representative and member of the AdHoc Committee on BBL.

Cong. Rufus Rodriguez in pink shirt listens to to CSO leaders issues.

Cong. Rufus Rodriguez in pink shirt listens to to CSO leaders issues.

The dialogue held at the Bishop Palace, Cagayan de Oro City was initiated by Bishop Antonio Ledesma in cooperation with Balay Mindanao Foundation (BMFI) and other peace groups in Mindanao. Bishop Ledesma is also member of the large group of prominent leaders of the country called “Friends of Peace” and member convener of the “National Peace Council” an independent body recently formed by President Benigno Aquino III primarily established to help push forward the GPH-MILF Peace Process and the BBL.

The Consortium of Bangsmoro Civil Society (CBCS) was able to send seven (7) delegates to the forum/dialogue composed of its leaders coming from as far as Tawi-Tawi, Sulu, Basilan, Zamboanga Peninsula, Maguindanao, North Cotabato provinces, Davao areas and Cotabato City. The forum facilitated by Paul Paraguya allowed selected leaders to present their main agenda, questions and clarifications they wanted Congressman Rufus Rodriguez to response with. CBCS team head Ismael Kulat in his message appeal to Chairman Rodriguez and his colleagues “not to dilute or water-down the BBL” referring to the published eight (8) major provisions of BBL to be removed by Congress.

He explained that “some members of Congress are taking the appeal for non-dilution of the BBL as hostaging, diminishing and intruding the independence of the Legislative’s power of law-making.” He further stressed that “our appeal is for your comrades to understand that we recognized and respect the mandate and discretion of the Congress. However, we should understand that the GPH-MILF negotiation started by MILF from the issue of independence and felled-back to sub-state status in the MOA-AD but was turned down by the Supreme Court for unconstitutionality. Now, the MILF agreed to settle on a regional autonomy embodied in the now controversial Bangsamoro Basic Law which is for us is the minimum option in solving the Bangsamoro problem.”

The minimum option when further diluted or watered down will not solve the problem then posted a question: “What is the essence of passing a law which will not solve the problem? We have tried this in the Organic Act of Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) R.A. 6734 as amended by R.A. 9054 catered to the discretion of Congress and the Constitution but failed miserably. Then shall we repeat the same mistakes?” Mr. Kulat ended.

Congressman Rufus Rodriguez in response to the issues advanced by the participants discussed lengthily the eight provisions which their committee agreed to remove as: (1) Bangsamoro Commission on Audit (2) Bangsamoro Electoral Body (3) Commission on Civil Service (4) Commission on Human Rights (5) Ombudsman (6) Bangsamoro Police Board (7) the provision on Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) deployment within Bangsamoro that needs to follow “coordination protocols” with the Bangsamoro Government and (8) provision on the “contiguous areas outside core territory” which congress feels it will result in unending “creeping invasion of territory” even throughout the country.

In his explanation on the need to extract especially on the “Constitutional bodies” is that these bodies are explicitly stated in the constitution that “there is only one commission” and the fact that the envisioned Bangsamoro regional government is still under the Philippine government clearly violates those provisions. He emphasized that congress wanted to avoid being put into embarrassing situation and blamed once those BBL provisions will be questioned in Supreme Court.

In like manner, the constitution also explicitly defined that there is only one AFP and that it falls under national defense matter which is left as one of the Reserved Power of the government. Thus, following the “protocol of coordination” before deployment within the Bangsamoro government diminished its power in maintaining national order and security.

In consideration to the provisions above, Congressman Rodriguez gave emphasis that “the real meat of BBL lie on Article V and XII which prescribed the Powers on Governance and its Fiscal Autonomy respectively” that could already guarantee of running a good government. He further justified to “take note that the BBL have 242 provisions and if we extract 8 provisions, do you think it will alter the whole intent and purpose of the BBL?”

The other predicament being faced by the law-makers on those provisions were petition papers submitted by deans of law schools, legal luminaries and political analysts to remove those provisions of the BBL. But more critical he said: “is the position papers submitted by some assemblymen, all Moro governors of ARMM and some mayors”, particularly on the Bangsamoro Electoral Body which he said: “We know the underlying reason why” but did not elaborate, except by saying: “Tell me how will we stand against it when those position papers to extract those provisions are submitted by the Moro leaders themselves?”, he ended.

By Fardju Indin

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