Press Release
June 11, 2015


Senator Ferdinand "Bongbong" R. Marcos, Jr., Chairman of the Local Government Committee, today expressed confidence that he can convince the Moro Islamic Liberation Front to see the need for the changes he will make on the draft Bangsamoro Basic Law.

This developed after MILF chief negotiator Mohagher Iqbal and Malacanang, in separate statements, pushed anew for Congress to adopt the draft BBL, instead of preparing a substitute bill to what the senator said is a flaw-ridden version.

"They should be patient and wait for the version that we will finally craft and they can rest assured that we are not taking advantage of them; that we still consider them our partners in peace. We know that they are necessary part of that peace process and we cannot do it without them," Marcos said.

"So certainly their concerns and their issues will be addressed; perhaps not in the way that they want. But again I am very confident that if we sit down and go through it rationally and logically and objectively, that they will understand that these things were necessary---whatever changes we instituted will be necessary," he added.

Besides, Marcos said all these worries and criticisms MILF and Malacanang expressed are premature because there is no substitute bill to speak of as of this time.

"There's no bill yet, so what are they objecting about?" Marcos said.

Earlier, the senator said he will spend the recess to sit down and write the substitute bill so it could be ready for discussion when the Senate resumes session on July 27.

The constitutional issues hounding the draft BBL is top on his priority, according to Marcos. These includes the provisions in the draft BBL creating constitutional bodies, ownership of natural resources in Bangsamoro area, as well as powers of the Bangsamoro parliament making it on equal footing with Congress.

"In the constitution it very clearly states that all natural resources found within Philippine territory belongs to the State, and this one (draft BBL) is changing that altogether," Marcos noted.

Also up for revision is the provision allowing the Bangsamoro parliament to change the powers and function of local governments within its jurisdiction "in the interest of good governance".

"But that essentially is an amendment to a national law and that puts Bangsamoro parliament equal to Congress. That's not possible. There's more than one of those. And those are the kind of things that really worries us. That's why the argument of a state within a state keeps coming up" he said. Marcos said the committee is also eyeing to put a system of checks and balances on the block grant and other forms of subsidies for the Bangsamoro government, although he agrees with the idea that such forms of assistance are needed to spur development and address the years of iniquities and social injustice the Bangsamoro people have suffered.

For 2016 alone, the Bangsamoro stands to receive an estimated P75 billion in total financial assistance from the national government, which includes a block grant of around P35 billion.

"But how do we guarantee--what checks and balances do we have in place---that in fact this money will be used to accelerate the development?. As it stands now there is no check or balance to the block grant. It's just a check. The national government writes a check and hands it over," Marcos said. In addition, Marcos said the Bangsamoro government must contribute something to the national government like other local government units do, to show it still a part of the Philippines. He noted that under the draft BBL, the Bangsamoro government retains all taxes collected within its jurisdiction for 10 years.

Marcos stressed that all changes he intends to make on the draft BBL are based on logic and reason so he is confident he can explain to the MILF and the Palace and make them see that the amendments are essential for the BBL to work and succeed in its goal of achieving peace in Mindanao.

"I'm quite confident---because this is all based in logic and reason--that I can explain and make them see that this is actually necessary, because if we don't do this it will be struck down in Supreme Court; if we don't do this, gulo lang ang mangyayari; if we don't do this, this sector will rise up and cause trouble. It is based on reason," Marcos said.

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