Congress adopts House provision on Bangsamoro inclusion
By Pathricia Ann V. Roxas
INQUIRER.net
2018-07-11 19:01:05

Published: 6:41 p.m., July 11, 2018 | Updated: 7:01 p.m., July 11, 2018

President Rodrigo Duterte has convinced both chambers of Congress to adopt the House provision on the Bangsamoro territory and plebiscite, which states that local government units may join the envisioned region only if their mother province or town would also vote in favor of inclusion.

“Pleased to announce that the President facilitated the passage of the BBL [Bangsamoro Basic Law] by convincing the two Houses of Congress to adopt the House version of the BBL providing that the 6 municipalities of Lanao Del Norte and the 39 barangays of North Cotobato could vote to join the BBL territory in a referendum to be conducted on the mother territory of the areas involved,” presidential spokesperson Harry Roque said in a text message sent to reporters on Wednesday.

“PRRD [President Rodrigo R. Duterte] will sign the BBL law before the SONA [State of the Nation Address],” he added.

Under Senate’s version of the BBL, or Senate Bill No. 1717, the 39 barangays in North Cotabato and six towns in Lanao del Norte could join the envisioned Bangsamoro region once their residents vote in favor of their inclusion through a plebiscite.

Votes from other areas of Lanao del Norte and North Cotabato will not matter in this scenario.

House Bill No. 6475, meanwhile, states that the areas may be included on two conditions:

  • first, if the village and town residents will vote yes to the inclusion
  • second, if the majority in the entire provinces of Lanao del Norte and North Cotabato will also vote in favor of their inclusion

The debates on the BBL provision on territory and plebiscite were earlier put on hold by the bicameral conference committee on BBL due to its contentious and controversial nature.

The bicam chairs – Senate Majority Leader Juan Miguel Zubiri and House Majority Leader Rodolfo Fariñas – as well as bicam members Sen. Aquilino Pimentell III, Lanao del Norte Rep. Mohammad Khalid Dimaporo, and Maguindanao Rep. Bai Sandra Sema, sought on Wednesday the President’s advice on how to solve the issue.

Zubiri also confirmed Duterte’s decision, saying legal luminaries in the meeting, including Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdea and Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra, all agreed that not involving the mother provinces and municipalities during the plebiscite for the towns of Lanao Norte and barangays of North Cotabato would be considered unconstitutional.

“And so as not to be struck down by the Supreme Court on that provision, the consensus was to adopt the House version on territory. As a good soldier, as that was the direction given then, I submit,” he added.

Roque also cited as one of the bases for the decision the Supreme Court (SC) ruling on Umali vs. the Commission on Elections (Comelec).

In this case, Fariñas said the SC ruled that in the matter of the conversion of Cabanatuan City into a highly urbanized city, “the voters of the whole province of Nueva Ecija had to participate in its ratification as the province is directly affected by such conversion.”

“In the same manner, the House bill provides that in the case of the 39 barangays in North Cotabato, the municipalities to which they belong shall participate in the plebiscite,” he added.

Fariñas also cited Section 10, Article X of the 1987 Constitution which states: “No province, city, municipality, or barangay may be created, divided, merged, abolished, or its boundary substantially altered, except in accordance with the criteria established in the Local Government Code and subject to approval by a majority of the votes cast in a plebiscite in the political units directly affected.”

/atm

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