Palawan wants out of Bangsamoro area

2014_sept25_news5DELIBERATIONS on the Bangsamoro Basic Law got off to a tumultuous start Wednesday with representatives of Puerto Princesa and Palawan asking the House to exclude them from the proposed Bangsamoro entity, saying 85 percent of their people had already rejected inclusion in an autonomous Muslim region in four plebiscites since the Marcos administration.

Don’t trample on our dream. Actor Robin Padilla and Anak Mindanao Rep. Sitti Djalia Turabin-Hataman (above) testify before Congress during the first hearing on the proposed Bangsamoro Basic Law as Cagayan de Oro Rep. Rufus Rodriguez (below) speaks with Mindanao residents who gathered at the House of Representatives to air their support for the measure. MANNY PALMERO

At the first hearing of the House special ad hoc committee on the BBL, a heated debate ensued, insults were hurled, and apologies were demanded and given.“

The people of Palawan vehemently oppose the inclusion of their province and the City of Puerto Princesa in the Bangsamoro entity as mentioned in the proposed Bangsamoro Basic Law,” said Palawan Rep. Frederick Abueg, who has filed a resolution to that effect.

Abueg demanded that the three congressmen representing Palawan be counted as members of the ad hoc panel with voting rights since their province was mentioned and will likely be directly affected by the proposed BBL.“

The people of Palawan have consistently resisted the inclusion of the province in the ARMM in four successive plebiscites,” Abueg said. “

The negative votes cast were more than 85 percent of the total votes.”Abueg added that the total population of Palawan including the city of Puerto Princesa as of 2010 was 994,340, with Muslims representing only 7 to 8 percent.

During the session, lawmakers were slighted when one of the resource speakers, Mary Ann Arnaldo of the Mindanao civil society organization Peace Platform, said fiscal autonomy for the Bangsamoro would spare them from having to bring “durian” and “pomelo” to legislators when asking Congress to approve the region’s annual budget.

Zamboanga City Rep. Celso Lobregat, a staunch critic of the BBL, demanded that Arnaldo’s “insulting comments” be stricken from the record.Arnaldo withdrew her comments and apologized to the panel.

Dasmarinas City Rep. Elpidio Barzaga Jr. wanted to insert a provision that provides “the Bangsamoro will not secede from the Philippines.”

Moro Islamic Liberation Front chief negotiator Mohager Iqbal declined to comment on the proposal and left it to Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process Secretary Teresita Deles, who said it was unnecessary.

But Anak Mindanao Rep. Sitti Djalia Hataman viewed Barzaga’s suggestion as offensive, prompting him to withdraw the proposal.Lobregat moved that all the Palace drafts of the BBL submitted to the panel, noting the delays in the submission of the draft law to Congress.

The panel chairman, Cagayan de Oro Rep. Rufus Rodriguez, rejected Lobregat’s motion, forcing a vote that Lobregat won 19 to 8.“I would also like to say we are for peace, just and long lasting peace. We are not anti-peace. We want BBL to be fair, just acceptable, feasible and consistent with the Constitution and existing laws,” Lobregat said.“

If ever and whenever we raise certain issues or concerns or question certain provisions, we want to clarify any and all ambiguities as these will affect not only areas under the Bangsamoro but the entire Mindanao and Philippines as well,” he added.

The House special ad hoc committee was created under HR 1462, authored by House Speaker Feliciano Belmonte, Jr. and House Majority Leader Neptali Gonzales II.

The Rodriguez panel is tasked to review and evaluate the comprehensive peace agreement on the Bangsamoro and propose a basic law for the establishment of a Bangsamoro entity within a time frame of six months.

Among the issues raised by Rodriguez was that of security of tenure for local government employees affected by the reorganization of the bureaucracy in Bangsamoro areas.Deles assured the panel that all civil service eligibilities would be respected.“

We imagine there will be some reorganization, separation benefits when necessary will follow the law of the land, civil service laws and entitlements will be respected,” Deles said.

Deles also reassured lawmakers that the wording of the draft law abandons Charter change, but maintained nothing prevents anyone in the future from proposing Charter change.

Addressing the panel, Iqbal said: “the Bangsamoro is the sum of our hopes and dreams.”

“It may mean nothing to you. It’s the whole world to us. It’s what we got. It is what we only have. We implore you then to step lightly on these dreams when you discuss the draft law. Do not trample them. Celebrate them. Welcome them,” Iqbal said.Iqbal also warned that some people are expected to sow fear instead of hope in the hearts of the Filipino people to frustrate the realization of the Bangsamoro.“

They will use words like dismemberment of the Republic, sellout, violation of the Constitution, surrender, state within a state, and even a ploy for eventual independence,” Iqbal said.“Be not afraid. Instead of dismemberment of the Republic, the Bangsamoro will further unite our peoples. There shall be no state within a state. The Philippine state shall remain sovereign. We onlyask that we be allowed to govern ourselves. You shall see the Philippine flag and hear the national anthem sung in our schools and offices. Be not afraid of the Constitution. There are enoughflexibilities in it to solve this problem. We only need to look for it,” he said.“

To the indigenous peoples in the Bangsamoro, be not afraid. Just as we fought for our right to self-determination, so shall we protect yours.“

To the non-Muslims in the Bangsamoro, be not afraid. We shall not impose our beliefs on you. The Sharia will apply only to us Muslims. We will never impose ourselves on communities that prefer not to be part of us,” Iqbal said.

Following Lobregat’s motion, Abueg also requested that a copy of HB 1514 or the BBL be forwarded to the Sangguniang Panlalawigan ng Palawan and the Sangguniang Panlungsod ng Puerto Princesa.

Read more: http://manilastandardtoday.com/2014/09/25/palawan-wants-out-of-bangsamoro-area/

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