Lanao del Norte's Dimaporo ready to question an unconstitutional BBL

MANILA, Philippines – Lanao del Norte 1st District Representative Khalid Dimaporo said he would question an unconstitutional Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) before the Supreme Court (SC), as he strongly opposed the inclusion of 6 towns of his province and 39 barangays of North Cotabato in the Bangsamoro region.

"I don't know why Migz (Senate Majority Leader Juan Miguel Zubiri) said that if we don't get what we want uuwi kami (we will go home) in tears. 'Di yan totoo (That is not true.) We're all adults here. If I don't get what I want and I feel that this is unconstitutional, I'll challenge it in the Supreme Court, period," Dimaporo told reporters on Wednesday, July 11.

"If us in the province, this is not just me, us in the province, feel that there will be questions of constitutionality, then we will challenge it in the Supreme Court," he added.

Dimaporo and his father, Lanao del Norte 2nd District Representative Abdullah Dimaporo, are strongly opposing the inclusion of 6 municipalities of their province and 39 barangays of North Cotabato in the proposed Bangsamoro region. Both lawmakers are members of the bicameral conference committee on the measure.

The younger Dimaporo said there is no proof that these areas indeed voted for their inclusion in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) in the past, a major reason being cited by the Bangsamoro Transition Commission (BTC) to push for the areas' incorporation in the proposed Bangsamoro state.

"Even in the House, ako gusto ko 'yung 6 municipalities, 39 barangays tanggalin 'yan (I wanted the 6 municipalities and 39 barangays removed from the bill). There's no proof they voted in the ARMM. We asked Comelec (Commission on Elections), but they said all records have been burned. So if anybody challenges this in court, there’s no official record that can be produced," Dimaporo said.

"And when we ask the BTC: What's your basis that these voted kung walang (if there are no) official documents? [They said] we found it in the internet," he added.

Zubiri earlier said district representatives are opposing the said areas' inclusion in the BBL out of fear of loss of territory. But Dimaporo denied this.

He claimed they are only trying to prevent bloodbath between Muslims and non-Muslims in Lanao del Norte, a Christian-majority province.

"It's not really that. Alam mo for example, Lanao del Norte, it's a Christian-majority province…. 'Yung coastal areas, diyan ang Christians. In the interior, there are MILF (Moro Islamic Liberation Front) municipalities. Minsan you have problems like Mamasapano, areas that AFP (Armed Forces of the Philippines) and PNP (Philippine National Police) can enter, diyan tumatago mga kidnappers, criminals. Whenever there's kidnapping in Christian towns, we have to work with the interior," Dimaporo said.

(It's not really that. Like for example in Lanao del Norte, it's a Christian-majority province.... Christians live in the coastal areas. In the interior, there are MILF municipalities. Sometimes you have problems like Mamasapano, areas that AFP and PNP can enter, that's where kidnappers and criminals hide. Whenever there's kidnapping in Christian towns, we have to work with the interior.)

"Eh kung malabas na yan sa 'min, hahabulin ko in the interior (If that would be excluded from our jurisdiction, we would have to run to the interior). I can no longer do that. I have to coordinate with the Bangsamoro chief minister. What will happen to Christians if they feel they cannot be protected by the government? Then they will [point] arms at any Muslim coming down from the interior. And that happened before."

For his part, Drieza Lininding of Insider Mediator, a pro-BBL coalition, said the 6 municipalities and 39 barangays are adjacent to the Bangsamoro region.

The BTC, he said, consulted residents of these areas, who in turn expressed desire to join the region.

"Why limit the self-determination of people who want to be part of the Bangsamoro region? It can't be that those who will decide are the ones from Zamboanga or Lanao del Norte, which are not part of the Bangsamoro," Lininding said in a mix of Filipino and English during a press conference, apparently referring to Zamboanga City 1st District Representative Celso Lobregat and the Dimaporos.

Violence, war

Lininding also warned that the removal of the areas from the territorial jurisdiction and the subsequent two-tier plebiscite might cause security issues.

"'Pag 'di nasali 6 municipalities, 39 barangays, baka hindi na sila sumama sa decommissioning at hindi na magbababa ng armas. Maghihintay pa ba tayo ng isa pang digmaan para ayusin 'yan?" he said.

(If these 6 municipalities and 39 barangays are not included in the Bangsamoro territory, they might not pursue decommissioning and they might not put down their arms. Do we have to wait for another war to resolve the matter?)

Under the Senate and House versions, the areas shall vote on whether or not they want to be included in the proposed Bangsamoro territory.

The two versions, however, differ on the mode of plebiscite. In the Senate version, the 6 municipalities and 39 barangays would be automatically included in the Bangsamoro once their residents vote in favor of inclusion – a provision backed by the BTC.

The House version wants the mother units of the said areas to decide on their fate. In the case of the 6 towns of Lanao del Norte, the whole province must vote whether or not they want the towns out of their jurisdiction. For the 39 barangays, the municipalities they belong to have the final say on their fate.

Dimaporo argued that the Senate provision violates the 1987 Constitution. He said it is mandated that the mother units must first give permission for the addition or removal of areas.

The bicam is seeking the help of President Rodrigo Duterte to end the deadlock. They are set to meet on Wednesday afternoon in Malacañang. – Rappler.com

Camille Elemia

Camille Elemia is a multimedia reporter focusing on media, technology, and disinformation.

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