World boxing champion and Sarangani Rep. Manny Pacquiao is opposing the inclusion of his province in the proposed Bangsamoro autonomous region.
Pacquiao said he joins the nation in its quest for peace in Mindanao but he does not want Sarangani to be part of the Bangsamoro territory.
“The inclusion of Sarangani and other parts of Mindanao may cause instability and further complicate our search for lasting peace in the region,” Pacquiao said yesterday.
He said there is relative peace and order in his province.
“I recognize the need to pass a law that will govern the area to ensure peace, which is the key to economic prosperity and development in the region and throughout Mindanao,” he said.
Pacquiao is part of the 75-member House ad hoc committee on the proposed Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL). The panel has approved the draft but the lawmaker was not present during the voting.
Among the contentious provisions of the BBL is the so-called “opt-in” provision under Article 3, Section 3 where a contiguous area may join the proposed autonomous region if 10 percent of its population files a petition for a plebiscite and succeeds in the referendum.
The petitions may be submitted five to 10 years after the passage of the BBL.
Among the areas that may seek inclusion are those identified in the 1976 Tripoli Agreement, which includes Sarangani.
Some lawmakers accused Malacañang of inserting the provision on the inclusion of areas listed in the Tripoli Agreement. They said the provision was not in the original draft written by the ad hoc panel.
‘ Pork’ may sway senators to pass BBL – Osmeña
Some senators are reluctant to meet with President Aquino to thresh out differences on the BBL pending final amendments of the Senate version of the measure.
Sen. Sergio Osmeña III did not rule out the possibility that President Aquino might dangle “goodies” in the form of pork barrel to sway the senators to vote in favor of the BBL.
“First, Malacañang will not be able to come here to say, ‘here’s the bill, take it or leave it.’ That won’t happen because we are more independent, well at least, most of us are more independent-minded,” he said.
Osmeña said he is concerned that any meeting might raise suspicions that pork barrel funds would be given to senators in exchange for a “yes” vote on the BBL.
“Well… I will be naughty. If there are some goodies, it might help with a couple of senators,” he said.
Osmeña said the President does not need to talk to him “because I am making my own judgment.”
“And definitely, while I am for peace… who is not for peace? I am for peace, but I want to make sure that the rest of the country is protected. It is difficult to approve the BBL as it is written,” he said.
Osmeña said he sees “a lot of concerns, defects and constitutional issues on the proposed measure.”
He rejected calls by the proponents to pass the BBL without amendments.
“We have to amend it,” he said, adding that the BBL would likely be passed by August after tedious review by the senators.
For his part, Senate President Franklin Drilon said any meeting with the senators on the BBL might be premature at this time.
“We welcome the statement of the President that he is willing to sit down with the senators to discuss the BBL. However, we would like to see first the committee report so we will know how far would be the disagreements insofar as the senators are concerned,” Drilon said.
Bongbong: No railroading
Sen. Ferdinand Marcos Jr., chairman of the Senate panel scrutinizing the BBL, said he does not want to be part of any meeting where the BBL would be railroaded.
“We would be happy of course to meet with the President and discuss any issues. But if it is to try and do in the Senate what the Palace did in the House regarding the BBL, I would rather not be part of that,” Marcos said.
Sen. Francis Escudero said the Senate would not railroad the passage of the BBL.
Senators Joseph Victor Ejercito and Nancy Binay do not see any reason for President Aquino to discuss the matter with the senators.
Binay called on Aquino to focus on more pressing issues.
“The President should just attend to other problems of our people and let us do our job in scrutinizing the BBL,” she said.
Visayan bloc to vote as one
Forty-two lawmakers from the Visayan bloc are expected to vote as one on the BBL, Negros Occidental Rep. Alfredo Benitez said.
Benitez, leader of the bloc, said the group has yet to make a decision on its vote as they are still reviewing the draft approved by the ad hoc panel.
Members of the bloc come from various political parties, including the ruling Liberal Party and Nationalist People’s Coalition.
He said the bloc has been consulting with the government peace panel as well as leaders of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front.
Benitez said more time is needed for the bloc to make a stand due to the last-minute changes made on the draft BBL.
For his part, Davao City Mayor Rodrigo Duterte urged President Aquino not to resort to railroading just to pass the BBL.
“Railroading the BBL will do more harm than good,” Duterte said.
Duterte asked the President not to rush approval of the BBL and in the process create a chaotic situation in the future. – Christina Mendez, Edith Regalado