Bicam OKs freedom of religion in proposed Bangsamoro Basic Law

MANILA, Philippines – The bicameral conference committee has adopted the provision guaranteeing religious freedom in the proposed Bangsamoro Basic Law.

The Senate version has a provision requiring the Bangsamoro government to  promote religious freedom, which is not in the House version.

Senator Joel Villanueva, member of the Jesus Is Lord Church, said the body adopted his proposal on Monday.

Villanueva said the Bangsamoro is multicultural, with the presence of Islam, Christianity, and other indigenous beliefs in the region. He said the people should be protected from harassment or any undue pressure, coercion, and violence on account of religion.

"We need to be mindful of the fact that people are harassed or subjected to violence because of their choice of beliefs in certain areas of the country," Villanueva said.

"Given my concerns, what is the strongest guarantee we can extract from the regional government that it will be proactive in protecting this freedom?" the senator asked.

According to Villanueva's office, the adopted provision under Article 9 Basic Rights reads as follows:

“The Bangsamoro government guarantees religious freedom and the free exercise thereof pursuant to the tenets of international law, the Constitution, and national statutes and the regional government shall protect its citizens from harassment or any undue pressure, coercion, and violence on account of religion. All establishments and institutions shall be free to implement policies and undertake activities pursuant to their respective religious beliefs and values.”

The bicam, however, decided to delete a specific line in Article 9 that enumerates the individual basic rights of people in the region.

Senator Francis Pangilinan, bicam member, said it was removed due to redundancy.

“Because all these are already present in the 1987 Constitution and understood to be applicable to Muslim Mindanao,” Pangilinan said in a text message to Rappler.

The bicam has yet to finalize the most controversial issue in the bill: territory and plebiscite. Senate Majority Leader Juan Miguel Zubiri said the panel would decide on the issue on Wednesday, July 11. (READ: Lawmakers' fear of territorial loss delays final BBL scope, plebiscite) –

Camille Elemia

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