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Mindanao guvs back BBL in 36th and final hearing

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MANILA, Jan. 24 (PNA) — Mindanao governors and local executives expressed their support for the proposed Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) in the 36th and last public hearing and consultation conducted by the House of Representatives’ Ad Hoc Committee on the Bangsamoro on January 21.

“I’d like to express my support for the BBL,” Maguindanao Governor Esmael “Toto” Mangudadatu said during the hearing. “I hope the legislative process is fast-tracked, because we all know that our government has been in conflict with the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF), the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), and other groups in southern Mindanao for more than 40 years now.”

Basilan Governor Jum Jainudin Akbar similarly backed the BBL, noting that her constituents were “happy and hopeful that lasting peace can be finally achieved.”

“We are supporting the BBL,” Akbar said while emphasizing the need to educate the public on the Bangsamoro Law. “I hope we properly communicate the BBL to (the people), so they can understand it. Then we won’t have any problems with the BBL,” Akbar said. “We are hoping for peace in Basilan.”

Tawi-Tawi Governor Nurbert Sahali also noted the wide public support for the BBL and the peace process among his constituents, saying, “whatever objectives the national government has with regard to the peace process in our region, we in the local government unit of Tawi-Tawi support it.”

Sulu Vice Governor Sakur Tan similarly expressed his support for the BBL while also urging Congress to improve and fine-tune the draft, especially on provisions that might be challenged on grounds of unconstitutionality.

“We are not against the BBL,” Tan said, but added that “we have our concerns about certain provisions of the BBL…I hope all of our proposals will be considered.”

Philippines peace panel chair Prof. Miriam Coronel-Ferrer, also present at the hearing to address the concerns of the resource persons present, noted that it was not the first time the panel engaged local government officials in the course of the peace process.

“If there is one lesson that we learned in the MOA-AD [Memorandum of Agreement on Ancestral Domain] experience, it was that kind of a lack of engagement within government that precipitated the tragic turn of events in 2008,” Coronel-Ferrer said. “That is why when this new panel came in in 2010 we made sure that we had very close coordination and engagement with the local government officials whether as a group or individually.”

Coronel-Ferrer said that the concerns and interests of local government units are addressed in the BBL. She clarified that incumbent local government officials will not be removed from office.

“All local elected government officials will serve their full term until 2016, until the next election in 2016,” Coronel-Ferrer said. “What will be abolished is the ARMM—which means the elected officials, the governor and the vice governor of the ARMM, and the Regional Legislative Assembly—in order to give way to the Bangsamoro Parliament and the executive (office) that will be created in the form of the Bangsamoro Transition Authority.”

“The BBL is not blind to the interests of local governments,” she added. “If you look atthe provisions, you’ll find that there are very specific provisions such as the principle of devolution and subsidiarity, and the Council of Leaders that can make for a cohesive and cooperative leadership at all levels.”

She noted that these provisions would solve the current disconnect between the ARMM regional government and the LGUs. The Council of Leaders will be made up of the chief minister, provincial governors, city mayors and sectoral representatives.

Subsidiarity refers to the exercise of power where it us most effectively exercised and is premised on mutual respect for each other