Press Release
February 23, 2015

Recto : BBL has many shades of gray

Sen. Ralph Recto said proposed changes to the draft Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) are not meant "to mangle the bill but mend it" so the final version will be acceptable to the "country, the citizenry and the Constitution."

"When we propose revisions, it is out of the desire to improve the bill and not to impair," Recto said.

The Senate President ProTempore said there are "many shades of gray" in the BBL. "In legislation, it must be black-and-white so there will be no room for multiple interpretations."

"If the law is vague, then conflicts will arise during implementation, the resolution of which may be left for the courts to settle," Recto said.

"Ayaw naman natin ng isang batas na puputaktihin ng mga kaso sa korte o namumuro ng TROs," Recto said.

Another reason why Congress should improve the law, Recto explained, "is to increase its chances of being approved by the people in the plebiscite to be called for its ratification."

"Parang kotse 'yan, kung may factory defect, ayusin na kaagad bago ibenta. Kasi kung sa papalapit na sa plebisito nabisto 'yan, di ka na pwede mag-issue ng recall, at sasabihin mo na time-out muna, postpone natin botohan kasi aayusin pa namin," Recto said.

And should the Senate tinker with the BBL, the outcome, Recto said, "will still follow the general outline of the blueprint. Kotse pa rin, hindi bangka, ang kalalabasan. O kung ang BBL ay pantalon, ganun pa rin ang kalalabasan, hindi mini-skirt."

Recto said Moro groups pushing for the BBL should welcome initiatives to improve the measure.

"First thing they should do is to drop the 'we-are-infallible' stance. If you don't want to change even a single sentence in the bill, then that policy of extremism won't bring you anywhere. You must be open to other ideas."

"Otherwise, your bill will be dead-on-arrival in either of the chambers of Congress," he added.

Recto said some proposed changes are recalibrations the Bangsamoro can live with.

"Kailangan ba talaga 60 members ang Bangsamoro parliament? Bakit hindi i-trim down to 40, and let the savings be used to fund health? After all, the region needs more doctors, not lawmakers," Recto said.

"Why is there a need for the Bangsamoro to create, appoint its own Commission on Audit (COA)? Dapat isa lang ang COA, isa lang ang rules, for all government expenditures," Recto said.

"Sa usapin ng intergovernmental relations, why the need for a superbody called the Philippine Congress-Bangsamoro Parliament Forum that will harmonize legislation affecting the region? Does this mean any bill affecting the region will have to be cleared with this superbody?" Recto said.

Of the "many shades of gray" of the BBL, what needs to be cured of its ambivalence is the powers of the Bangsamoro Police, Recto said. "Its authority should be sharply defined."

Recto said there are calls to raise the bar for non-contiguous barangays and towns who may want to join the Bangsamoro.

"Kailangan ba 10 percent lang pwede ng umanib doon? Kung halimbawa isang barangay iyan sa Davao City, paano ang administration nila?"

Recto also raised the need to clarify the BBL's "affirmative action and appointment quota provisions."

"Mandatory doon na dapat isa from Bangsamoro ang uupo sa Supreme Court. Pwede ba tayong mag-appoint on the sole yardstick of ethnographic representation? What if other groups would want the same?"

Another "contentious" issue, Recto said, is in the area of "financing the peace."

"The BBL is basically an appropriations bill. It creates financial obligations in the tens of billions of pesos. It binds the national government, and ultimately taxpayers, to allocate large sums of money every year," Recto said.

"On the first year alone of the Bangsamoro establishment, the projected minimum cost is P75 billion," Recto said, citing official estimates on the fiscal impact of the creation of the Moro sub-state in Mindanao.

A big chunk of this is in the form of a "block grant, " which in 2016, according to testimonies of government officials, will be around P27 billion, Recto explained.

"Kailangan bang ang block grant is automatically appropriated?" Recto said.

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