Bicam adopts Senate provision vs Bangsamoro firearms purchase

MANILA, Philippines (UPDATED) – The bicameral conference committee on the proposed Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) adopted the provision that prohibits the Bangsamoro state from allocating funds for firearms, ammunition, and explosives.

Senate Majority Leader Juan Miguel Zubiri said the body approved it on Tuesday, July 10.

Zubiri said some members of the Bangsamoro Transition Commission felt insulted by the proposal. But he explained that it is needed to ensure that government funds would not be used for radicalization in the future.

Sa small group panalo 'yan (In the small group level, it was accepted); we insisted….We are insisting on that. We apologize. We don’t want to make a big deal out of this. But I know some of them feel slighted about it," the senator  told reporters on Tuesday, July 10.

"But you know, what if [there is a] different leadership? What if 30 years down the line, when we are already old and grey, there’s a new brand of leadership that goes into the Bangsamoro and they’re radicalized and they want to secede and they want to do some foolishness and they will buy firearms, tanks, and airplanes with these funds? This law will not allow it. This provision will not allow that,” he added.

This was why, Zubiri said, senators "have to put this provision to safeguard that the funds cannot be misappropriated – not only for firearms but also on other things, other illegal activities or purchases that will be contrary to achieving peace."

Article 20, Section 12 of Senate Bill 1717 states that the Bangsamoro Parliament shall pass an annual budget for the allocation of the block grant given them, which Congress has pegged at 5% of the national internal revenue or P59 billion.

The provision, however, prohibits the Bangsamoro parliament from including “the procurement of firearms, ammunition and explosives in its annual appropriations law.” Only the Senate version contains such provision.

It was opposition Senator Antonio Trillanes IV who pushed for the line’s insertion during the period of amendments in the chamber.

Public safety: 'No other armed group, armed force in the region'

According to Zubiri, the bicam has agreed that the Bangsamoro state's police and military would be under the Philippine National Police and the Armed Forces fo the Philippines, respectively.

Zubiri said President Rodrigo Duterte had given the same directive to Congress leaders.

“That is a no-compromise issue. That was also ordered to us by the President… There will be no other armed group or armed force in the region. There will be none,” Zubiri said.

Just like the provinces, the proposed Bangsamoro state would have a regional police that would be headed by a regional director.

The chief minister of the Bangsamoro, like the governors and mayors, shall appoint the regional director.

“We are going to treat this just like a province. We have a provision here that the regional police force, the Bangsamoro regional police force shall be headed by regional director who shall, upon consultation with  the chief minister, be appointed in accordance with RA 6975," Zubiri said.

He added: "Like the governors, mayors, there will be a shortlist of 3. Puwede sila pumili doon sa (They can pick from the) shortlist. That is something, I feel, is fair because this is a power granted to governors and mayors as of this moment."

The Bureau of Jail Management and Penology (BJMP), the Bureau of Fire Protection (BFP), and the Philippine Coast Guard shall also establish their respective Bangsamoro regional offices, but would all be under national laws and offices. 

Zubiri said the bicam is set to decide on the most controversial provision on territory and the plebiscite on Wednesday, July 11. (READ: Lawmakers' fear of territorial loss delays final BBL scope, plebiscite– Rappler.com

Camille Elemia

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

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