COTABATO CITY, Aug 28 (PNA)- Officials of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) on Friday said the regional leadership is closely watching the deliberations of the Senate version of the Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL).
Lawyer Laisa Alamia, ARMM executive secretary, lauded the Senate as it started deliberating on the draft law.
But she quickly added that the Bangsamoro people are appealing to the Senators to restore the original version of the BBL crafted after 17 long years of peace process in southern Philippines.
“The public, especially the people in the ARMM, have been waiting for the Senate to tackle on the floor the BBL. We are happy that they finally proceeded and we anticipate dynamic and meaningful debates in the coming days,” Alamia said in a statement released here.
Senator Ferdinand “BongBong” Marcos Jr has filed his substitute bill known as Senate Bill No. 2894 while in the House, members are deliberating on HB No. 5811, authored by Cagayan Rep. Rufus Rodriguez.
Alamia urged the lawmakers that during the Senate plenary deliberations, the senators would include a revisit of the deleted and altered provisions from the original draft BBL.
“Despite our opposing views on certain matters in the BBL, we respect Senator Marcos for having worked so hard on this legislative measure. We just hope that he and all the other Senators will take into consideration the letter and spirit of the original draft in relation to the CAB (Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro),” she said.
“We fear that a weakened or diluted bill will allow the problems of the current autonomous region to foster and transfer to the Bangsamoro. We don’t want that to happen because our people have suffered so much and for so long,” she added.
During the first day of deliberation, Senator Pia Cayetano was the first to question the BLBAR, focusing her queries on the annual block grant and the various taxation mechanisms being proposed for the regional government.
Senator Ralph Recto, on the other hand, opined that the autonomous region must take charge of collecting national taxes, retain its share, and then remit national government share to the national treasury, instead of the other way around.
Alamia welcomed the suggestion, commenting that a strong fiscal autonomy was vital if senators were serious in establishing a regional government that was in accordance with the mandates of the 1987 Philippine Constitution.
“Political autonomy would be meaningless if fiscal autonomy is not ensured. If you read the legislative powers being ensured by the Constitution for autonomous regions, fiscal autonomy is clearly implied,” Alamia said.
“We don’t want the Bangsamoro experiencing an unsound fiscal arrangement with the government such as what the ARMM has been experiencing,” she said.
The ARMM budget is part of the annual General Appropriations Act (ACT) that needs to be defended each year.
The annual block grant in the Bangsamoro bill, meanwhile, sets the budget of the regional government based on a formula that will free its would-be leaders from facing Congress each year.
“With the automatic appropriation, you’ll know more or less how much you’ll have for a fiscal year and that has significant positive impact on public administration,” explained Alamia. (PNA)