House Ad Hoc Committee votes today: Civil Society Groups take up cudgels for BBL

May 10, 2015

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Civil society groups will launch a series of nationwide mass actions today to drum up support for the passage of the Bangsamoro Basic Law in Congress.


The “Citizens Action for the BBL” (CAB) is basically sympathy advocacy actions in selected areas across the country intended to synchronize with the projected 10,000 strong throng of peace advocates marching towards the House of Representatives in Batasan Complex, Manila on May 11in time when the BBL ad hoc committee resumes its hearings to vote on the bill,” said Rochelle Mordeno, executive director of Balay Mindanaw (Tulay KaMi Secretariat) during the All Out Peace Campaign/Friends of Peace organizing the Citizens Action for BBL meeting in Davao City recently.


“Its primary intent is to serve as a ‘show of force’ and physically demonstrate the groundswell of people pushing for the passage of the basic law and persuade the majority of the members of the

Adhoc Committee on the BBL to guarantee the passage of an inclusive basic law true to the spirit of the CAB,” she added.


The BBL faces its first acid test Monday, April 11 when the House Ad Hoc Committee on the BBL starts voting on the measure.


Rep. Rufus B. Rodriguez (2nd District, Cagayan de Oro) ad hoc committee chair, said the voting by the 75 members is scheduled on May 11 and 12. Voting will be conducted on each provision, followed by a final yes or no vote which would determine whether it would be elevated to the plenary or not, he added.


The 75-member Ad Hoc Committee represents leaders and members of the majority coalition and five members of the minority group.


Besides its 75 regular members, some 26 ex-officio members who are mostly House leaders would also cast their votes. A majority of 52 is needed for the measure to pass, said Majority Leader Neptali Gonzales II.


The House is targeting to have the bill approved on third and final reading before Congress adjourns its second regular session on June 11 and have the law signed into law by President Aquino on June 30.


“The passage of a Bangsamoro Basic Law is our fundamental role as legislators recognizing and responding to the call of our diverse culture as Filipinos. It is also our contribution to a global quest for genuine and sustainable peace,” said House Speaker Feliciano Belmonte, Jr..


The authors of the BBL include leaders of the Majority coalition led by Speaker Belmonte, Deputy Speakers Henedina Abad, Giorgidi Aggabao, Sergio Apostol, Pangalian Balindong, Carlos Padilla and Roberto Puno; with Majority Leader Neptali Gonzales II; and Reps. Mel Senen Sarmiento; Enrique Cojuangco; Mark Llandro Mendoza; Eleandro Jesus Madrona; Elpidio Barzaga, Jr.; Antonio Lagdameo, Jr.; Rolando Andaya, Jr.; Nicanor Briones; and Raymond Democrito Mendoza.


Among the advocacy actions coordinated by the CAB in strategic areas in the country on May 11 are expressed the Congressional Office Hop in the provinces (visits to provincial congressional offices of BBL Ad Hoc Committee members), media events and press conferences, radio and TV guestings, letters of appeals and public statements, social media advocacy, IEC dissemination, and other creative public events.


The mass actions outside Manila will be conducted in key areas in the Visayas and Mindanao including the cities of Cagayan de Oro, Cotabato, Kidapawan, Zamboanga, Bacolod, Dumaguete, Iloilo and the provinces of Bohol, Bukidnon and selected areas in Luzon.


In Northern Mindanao, CAB actions are being coordinated by Tulay Kalinaw Mindanao (Tulay KaMi). Initially convened by Cagayan de Oro Archbishop Antonio Ledesma as a multi-sectoral civil society group to assist residents displaced by the Mindanao conflict, today Tulay KaMi has set its sights in helping dispel Filipino’s negative impressions on the BBL and work for its passage into law.


Tulay Kalinaw Mindanaw leaders map out details for the May 11 mass action in support of BBL as Cagayan de Oro Archbishop Antonio Ledesma observes


To start, TulayKaMi will conduct a Walk for Peace along Cagayan de Oro’s main thoroughfares and make a brief stop at the Misamis Oriental Press Freedom Monument where Ledesma would turn over a Unity Statement from the participating CSO’s directed at their congressmen and other pertinent documents on the BBL to Cagayan de Oro Press Club Jerry Orcullo in a symbolic ceremony stressing civil society’s desire to conduct the deliberations on the bill in a transparent, objective and peaceful manner.


“As you deliberate on the provisions of the BBL we ask you to bear in mind how your decisions can affect the peace process and impact the lives of the millions of people in the conflict affected areas in Mindanao who are pinning their hopes on the implementation of the peace agreement,” reads a paragraph of the Unity Statement.

“We ask you to think about the thousands of Internally Displace Persons (IDPs) who are still suffering in evacuation centers and more than 150,000 people killed in the last four decades. We appeal to you to think about the role that you would play in shaping the future of Mindanao and of our country, and the legacy you would like to be remembered by,” reads another.


 “As guardians of the Fourth Estate, we shall endeavor to help all stakeholders in Mindanao and around the Philippines get the correct information about the provisions of the BBL and its implications on their daily lives and futures,” Orcullo said in a text message to this BusinessWeek Mindanao.


The morning’s activities continue with a Youth Inter-Cultural Presentation at the historic Gaston Park with a Harmony Prayer and screening of the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process (OPAPP) video presentation of the BBL Road Map.


This will be followed by “A Reflection on BBL: Talk on 10 Challenges” by Ledesma as Tulay KaMi convenor and member of the Citizens Peace Council, and the reading of the Unity Statement directed at all members of the House of Representatives.


Activities resume in the evening with an interfaith prayer by Mindanao’s tri-people: the Christians, Muslims and Lumads. This will be followed by the lighting of 1,000 candles for peace and the screening of the OPAPP AVR “Roadmap to BBL”.


The evening’s activities concludes with a two-hour MusiKalinaw: Concert for Peace by local musicians including the 4th Infantry Division Band, 7 Tribes Band, XU Glee Club, Kagay-anon composer and singer Pipi Abrogar and MUST Dance Troupe, among others.


Among the CSOs joining Kalinaw KaMi are interfaith groups; Muslim, Christian and Lumad communities among the city and region’s barangays; the Kamalayang Pinoy Movement (KPM), Archdiocese of Cagayan de Oro, religious organizations, ministries, AWRACO and Youth Groups, academe, government security agencies (AFP, PNP), Balay Mindanao Groups, youth groups (OYDC, PYAP, SPES) and barangay coordinators


“I’m confident the BBL will pass,” said Rodriguez. “In our meetings, we can see that, as long as we are able to take out the unconstitutional provisions, it will pass.”


Rodriguez remains adamant about deleting eight provisions that, he said, “will interfere with the functions and operations of independent constitutional commissions,” such as the Commission on Elections and Commission on Audit.


He cited provisions in the draft bill creating separate Commissions on Audit, Elections, Civil Service, Human Rights and an Office of the Ombudsman which would duplicate the functions and operations of independent constitutional commissions.


Other constitutionally questionable sections require the President to coordinate military operations with the chief minister of the Bangsamoro region and empower such chief minister to have “control and supervision” over police forces in the region.


Rodriguez said this would diminish the power of the presidency and granting the chief minister authority over policemen in the Bangsamoro region would violate the constitutional provision for a national police force civilian in character and under control of the National Police Commission.


He also cited the provision that would allow a plebiscite in any territory contiguous to the proposed Bangsamoro region where 10 percent of the population seeks inclusion in the new entity.


However, the Peace Council appointed by President Aquino to review the BBL told the Ad Hoc Committee that the draft BBL complies with the 1987 Constitution. 


The Council includes Manila Archbishop Luis Antonio Cardinal Tagle, former chief justice Hilario Davide Jr., businessman Jaime Augusto Zobel de Ayala, former ambassador Howard Dee and peace advocate Rohaniza Sumndad-Usman.


Davide said there is no basis for the claim that the BBL would create a separate state.


“There is no basis for such fear because defining a Bangsamoro people does not create a citizenry, it is only an affirmation of identity and not citizenry,” Davide said.


In an earlier news report filed by a national network, Davide said the BBL does not make a Bangsamoro government a state since the provisions on people, territory, and self determination are consistent with the constitutionally-mandated creation of autonomous regions.


The council instead recommends that once the territorial boundaries are established in the plebiscite for the ratification of the BBL, the core Bangsamoro territories should not be allowed to increase indefinitely by the periodic vote of 10 percent of registered voters in the outer territories.


Davide said they recommend, for the purpose of clarity, that references to the opt-in provision in Article III, Section 3, and in Article XV, sec 4 be deleted.


“Otherwise, the definition of the “Bangsamoro territory,” along with “Bangsamoro people” and “self-determination” in the BBL may stand without need of neither amendment nor clarification,” he said.


He added that the Constitution permits a parliamentary form of government in local government units and the prescribed unitary and presidential form of government refers to the national government.


Further, Davide said the passage of the BBL does not constitute establishment of religion, much less enforce one upon Filipino citizens.


Davide said they recommend that dropping of the phrase “ministerial form of government in the BBL in favor of “parliamentary” for the purpose of consistency and clarity.


To address the concern of the Ombudsman that a BBL provision diminishes its mandate over public officials and employees, the phrase “without prejudice to the powers of the Civil Service Commission  and the Ombudsman” should be inserted. 


The former chief justice said the plebiscite requirement in the BBL adheres to the provision of the Constitution on the process for creation of the autonomous region. 


Not the least, Davide said the Constitution should be interpreted liberally in the case of BBL.


“The BBL is not just a grant of autonomy nor a division of house and resources. It should be understood as an instrument to pursue social justice and development for the constituents not only in Mindanao but the entire country, as well,” he said


“It may not solve the problems but it is a foundation, a necessary aspect. There is no guarantee of success, but it is a momentous opportunity for new beginning to correct the mistakes of the past. Now is the time for the country to try to win by being united in pursuing peace,” said Davide.


“We in the House see that this will be very helpful. That’s why I thank the President for having this initiative. It will help us. Any recommendation will help us consider each and every provision of the proposed BBL. So we’re open to additional suggestions. As chairman of the ad hoc committee, I will make sure the inputs of the council, of the citizen leaders, will be considered,” Rodriguez said.


“The council’s views could be considered even when the proposed BBL is already being discussed in plenary,” he added. (BWM News Service)



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