House ratifies Bangsamoro Organic Law

A day after the ouster of former Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez, the House of Representatives on Tuesday ratified the bicameral conference committee report on the Bangsamoro Organic Law (BOL).

This was the first item completed on the agenda of newly-elected Speaker Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo.

“As I intend to carry out the legislative agenda of President Rodrigo Duterte, we will ratify the Bangsamoro Organic Law today,” Arroyo said before Tuesday’s session started.

President Rodrigo Duterte was expected to sign the BOL before his third State of the Nation Address (SONA) on Monday but it was only the Senate that was able to approve the bicam report on the BOL.

The lower chamber failed to ratify the landmark measure during the opening of the third regular session following a leadership shakeup.

The measure seeks to create a new Bangsamoro political entity that would replace the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM).

The bicameral panel approved the reconciled version of the BOL last July 18 after six days of marathon hearings.

The bill provides for the 75-25 wealth-sharing term in favor of the Bangsamoro. This increases the share of the Bangsamoro in government tax revenues by 5 percent compared with the current 70 percent being received by the ARMM from national internal revenue taxes, fees, and charges, as well as taxes imposed on natural resources.

The automatic allocation of the annual block grant for the Bangsamoro region has been adopted by the committee. This is equivalent to 5 percent of the net national internal revenue of the Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR) and the Bureau of Customs (BOC).

The national government will allocate PHP5 billion to the Bangsamoro annually for a period of 10 years. This is equivalent to PHP50 billion for the entire implementation. The amount will be used for the rehabilitation of conflict-affected areas within the region.

The bicameral committee adopted the provision covering the Bangsamoro justice system, which includes the creation of the Shari’ah High Court.

The measure provides for the addition of Shari’ah high, district, and circuit courts to regular courts within the territorial jurisdiction of the Bangsamoro.

The committee also agreed to have the Bangsamoro government and national government jointly explore, develop, and utilize fossil fuels and uranium in the new region.

The coverage of the region includes current ARMM provinces, such as Tawi-Tawi, Sulu, Basilan, Maguindanao and Lanao del Sur.

It also provides that six municipalities of Lanao del Norte and the 39 barangays of North Cotabato could vote to join the territory in a referendum to be conducted in the mother territory of the areas involved.

Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque said President Duterte will sign the Bangsamoro Organic Law (BOL) as soon as it is ratified by the House of Representatives.

“The President to sign it into law is for the House to ratify the bicam version of the bill. So if it will be ratified later, then the President will sign it,” Roque said.

Duterte was not able to sign the BOL as scheduled before his third State of the Nation Address (SONA) on Monday due to the House’s failure to ratify the bicameral conference committee report on the proposed measure.

It was only the Senate that unanimously approved the bicam report hours before the joint opening session of the third regular session of the 17th Congress on Monday.

In his SONA, Duterte has expressed commitment to sign the BOL after reading the bicameral conference version.

“Despite all that has been said [for] or against the Bangsamoro Organic Law by all sectoral groups, I make this solemn commitment that this administration will never deny our Muslim brothers and sisters the basic legal tools to chart their own destiny within the Constitutional framework of our country,” Duterte said.

“When the approved version is transmitted [to] and received by my office… The law has been passed actually and I intend to… Give me 48 hours to sign it and ratify the law,” Roque said.

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