Moros still have no right to self-determination under BBL, critics say

(Photo by Efren Ricalde)

The BBL Law does not recognize and allow the exercise of the Moro’s right to self-determination, which include the right to have their own Constitution, their own identity, territories, own justice system, finance, armed forces and laws to utilize their natural resources and wealth, among others.

By RONALYN V. OLEA
Bulatlat.com

MANILA –Voting 227 to 11, with two abstentions, the Lower House passed the Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) on May 30.

Members of the Makabayan bloc opposed the passage of House Bill 6475, saying that it is no better than what it seeks to abolish – the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) established in 1989 through Republic Act 6734.

In his explanation of NO vote, Anakpawis Rep. Ariel Casilao said the BBL Law does not recognize and allow the exercise of the Moro’s right to self-determination, which include the right to have their own Constitution, their own identity, territories, own justice system, finance, armed forces and laws to utilize their natural resources and wealth, among others.

The Makabayan bloc representatives lamented that the version passed by the Lower House is a watered down version of the original bill drafted by the Bangsamoro Transition Committee (BTC).

Of the 58 exclusive powers of the Bangsamoro Government listed under the BTC version, the BBL Law removed 12 exclusive powers, including the following:

– Land managements, land distribution
– Agricultural land use reclassification
-Authority to regulate power regulation, transmission, and distribution
– Public utilities operations in Bangsamoro
– Shari’ah courts and Shari’ah justice system
– Protection of rights of indigenous peoples

From 14 concurrent powers, or those to be exercised by the Bangsamoro Government and the Central Government in the original version, there are already 21 concurrent powers. Some of these have been transferred to the exclusive powers of the Central Government.

From the nine reserved powers, or matters over which the authority and jurisdiction are retained by the Central Government, recommended by the BTC, the Central Government has 20 reserved powers under the BBL Law. These include, among others, the Armed Forces of the Philippines and Philippine National Police and National Police Commission control, supervision, and administration; and , administration of justice.

Looking at the political implications, Kabataan Partylist Rep. Sarah Elago asserted that the BBL Law gives Duterte the license “to exploit and control” the Moro people. Under the BBL Law, Duterte has the power to appoint all the 80 members of the Bangsamoro Transition Authority (BTA), including the Chief Minister.

On the economic side, Elago said the BBL facilitates the wanton plunder of natural resources and wealth of Mindanao.

Under the BBL Law, the power of eminent domain or the power to take private property for public use by a state and the power to grant rights, privileges, and concessions in the exploration, development, and utilization of fossil fuels and uranium remain with the Central Government.

Furthermore, BBL provides no 25-year limit, no 60-40 foreign equity limit for foreign investors and only “takes into consideration environmental protection and ecological balance.” Business and other enterprises operating within the Bangsamoro free ports will also enjoy fiscal incentives and other benefits provided by the Central Government to special economic zones.

Elago also feared that with the Central Government’s taking control of the Armed Forces, human rights abuses would escalate. Elago said 26 out of 74 Army battalions are deployed in ARMM. Citing data from Barug Katungod, an alliance of human rights defenders in Mindanao, state security forces are accountable to forced evacuations in ARMM, affecting more than half a million individuals – the highest in the whole Mindanao. Over 460 Moros are tagged as ‘terrorists’ and rebels.

For her part, Rep. Emmi de Jesus of Gabriela Women’s Party said that contrary to Duterte’s claims, the BBL does not correct the historical injustices suffered by Moro people since colonial times.

“…[o]ur ruling elite and officialdom have exploited the Bangsamoro social structure in forming political warlords that serve as local conduits of political and economic patronage, exacerbating the grossly unequal distribution of wealth among the Bangsamoro,” De Jesus said.

Duterte certified the bill as urgent on May 29. He is expected to sign it into law in time for his State of the Nation Address in July. ()

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