Joint Senate-House panel approves Bangsamoro law.
Gilbert P. Felongco, Correspondent
Manila: The bicameral conference committee has approved the Bangsamoro Basic Law, a measure that would provide for greater autonomy for Muslim regions in Southern Philippines.
Now renamed the Organic Law for the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao, the new measure aims to establish a political entity, provide for a basic structure of government that will allow enhanced self-governance to the Moros of southern Philippines. It is expected to be signed by President Rodrigo Duterte during his State of the Nation Address on Monday.
The Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARM) is intended to replace the current Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao, a more than three-decades-old set-up which was not enough to address injustices that bred conflict in the region.
The bicameral panel, led by Senate Majority Leader Juan Miguel Zubiri and House Majority Leader Rodolfo Farinas, was able reconcile conflicting provisions of the measure.
"We're finally done passing the Bangsamoro Organic Act at the Bicam Committee. After six days of marathon hearings with 13-hour days and a lot of tense moments of debate and amendments, we finally came together in the pursuit of peace on our area of Mindanao. Finally, all the sacrifices written in blood by all those who perished in the name of peace will not have been in vain. God bless the Philippines," Zubiri said.
The panel ignored inclement weather in Metro Manila to hammer out the document in time for Duterte's Monday presidential address.
Zubiri said a plebiscite to ratify the new law may likely be held in November, after which elections would be held for members of the legislative assembly.
"If it is ratified, the president can appoint members of the Bangsamoro Transition Authority by December or January at the latest," according to the Senator.
Officials of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) and the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) had been holding vigil at the Senate for the passage of the measure at the Bicam
National Security Adviser Hermogenes Esperon said the Bangsamoro Organic Act is the "convergence of the government's peace agreements with MILF and MNLF."
Bangsamoro Transition Commission chairman Ghadzali Jaafar said they were satisfied with the results
"It is not a perfect law, but it is good to start with. It is very important to us," he said.
The more than four decades of conflict in southern Philippines has claimed tens of thousands from both sides including civilians, and had left the Central Mindanao, Southern Mindanao regions among the most impoverished in the country.
Likewise, the conflict had also bred radicalism which the government, with the help of the MILF and the MNLF, is now trying to address.
Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon believes that provisions of the Bangsamoro Organic Act is in line with the Philippine Constitution.
"Yes, it can withstand the test of constitutionality, but I do not discount the possibility that it will be taken to the Supreme Court, especially those provisions relating to a parliamentary government in the planned BARM." he said.
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