Press Release
July 24, 2018

Senate ratifies bicam report on Bangsamoro Organic Law

The Senate on Monday ratified the bicameral conference committee report on the historic Bangsamoro Organic Law (BOL) which is seen to spur lasting peace and long-term development in Mindanao.

Voting unanimously, the Senate adopted and ratified the bicameral report on the disagreeing provisions between the Senate (SBN 1717) and House versions (HBN 6475) of the 'Organic Law for the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao' during the first day of the 3rd Regular Session of the 17th Congress.

The consolidated version of the bill was earlier approved in June 18 by the panels from both the Senate and the House of Representatives after six days of intensive discussions and debates.

The Senate panel was composed of Senate Majority Leader Juan Miguel Zubiri, Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon and Senators Francis Escudero, Juan Edgardo Angara, Joel Villanueva, Risa Hontiveros, Francis Pangilinan, Loren Legarda and Sherwin Gatchalian.

"I believe that it is the dawn of a new beginning in Mindanao, a dawn of peace followed by unhampered prosperity for our region - that I am sure would catapult our region to double digit growth rates and the effects felt all throughout the country," Zubiri said.

"This measure would not have reached this stage without the important contributions of House Majority Leader Rodolfo Fariñas and our Senate Minority Leader Frank Drilon; my seatmates Senator JV Ejercito stressed housing and the Marawi rehabilitation, Senator Sherwin Gatchalian on energy, Senator Sonny Angara on economic and judiciary provisions, and Senator Joel Villanueva on religious freedom and labor; likewise, Senator Gregorio Honasan II and Senator Panfilo Lacson on the police force, defense and security; the son of the author of the Local Government Code, Senator Aquilino Pimentel III; Senate President Pro Tempore Ralph Recto, who almost changed every part of the measure with his transparency and accountability provisions; Senator Risa Hontiveros who helped us reach agreement on many issues and Senator Legarda who gave airtight provisions on patrimony and the environment," Zubiri said.

Zubiri said that the bill aimed to foster peace and development not only in the Bangsamoro region but in the whole country.

"What the people should know is that this law may have local application in the Bangsamoro region, but the peace and prosperity we hope to achieve there would be felt from Batanes to Tawi-tawi," he said.

The bill would create the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao, the political entity which would replace the existing Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) first created through RA 6734 in 1989.

As proposed by the Senate panel in the bicameral meeting, the bill delineated the expanded powers to be exercised by the new Bangsamoro Autonomous Region within its territorial jurisdiction, ranging from administration of justice, civil service, creation of sources of revenues, education, housing, Islamic banking and finance, power sector investments, public works, urban land reform and land use, among others.

The new Bangsamoro Parliament would serve as the highest organ of the Bangsamoro government, and would be composed of 80 members, unless increased by Congress. Reserved seats in the parliament are allocated for non-Muslim indigenous people, settler communities, women, youth and traditional leaders.

In relation, the executive functions for the regional government would be exercised by a Cabinet headed by a Chief Minister. However, a ceremonial head of government, a Wali, would also be nominated.

Among the key reforms under the bill is the elevation of Shari'ah courts in the Bangsamoro region, as part of the Philippine judicial system under the Supreme Court's supervision. As a result, judges in Shari'ah courts are required to be regular members of the Integrated Bar of the Philippines.

The bill explicitly said that Shari'ah law may only apply to cases involving Muslims, or if the non-Muslim party voluntarily submits to the Shari'ah court's jurisdiction.

Another highlight is the admission of Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) and Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) fighters to the Philippine National Police. Educational, age or height requirements may be waived for the MILF/MNLF recruits within a limited period.

To provide ample funding for development projects, wide latitude in taxation power is provided to the Bangsamoro government, with the region getting a share of 75% of national taxes collected in the Bangsamoro territorial jurisdiction.

The region would also get a block grant of 5 percent of the "net national internal revenue tax collections of the Bureau of Internal Revenue and the Bureau of Customs" from the third fiscal year immediately preceding the current fiscal year.

While the block grant "shall be appropriated and released immediately," the formula and amount of the block grant would be subject to review by the Intergovernmental Fiscal Policy Board every five years.

The various reforms under the proposed bill would hopefully pave the way for tourism and investments in Mindanao, Zubiri said.

"Finally we can achieve a just and dignified peace for our brothers and sisters in Mindanao," he said.

"After three administrations, we have finally reached this far," Zubiri added. (JDC)

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