My Legal Point
Atty. Bayan G. Balt
Plebiscite and or referendum are usual political exercises employed to determine, how people wish to be governed. In case of the BARMM, the Bangsamoro Organic Law, under Sec. 1 Article XV. (RA. 11054) enumerates the area wherein plebiscite should be held. The plebiscite will decide the system of their government or whether RA 11054 or the Local Government Code will apply to them, as thus:
(f) Any other contiguous area where there is a resolution of the local government unit or a petition of at least ten percent (10%) of the registered voters in the local government unit asking for its inclusion at least two (2) months prior to the conduct of the ratification of this Organic Law shall form part of the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region if the majority of the votes cast in the political units directly affects shall be in favor of the inclusion of the petitioning local government unit in the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region.
Further it says,
Section 2. Period of Plebiscite. – The plebiscite herein mentioned shall be conducted not earlier than ninety (90) days nor later than one hundred fifty (150) days after the effectivity of this Organic Law.
On 21 January 2019, the qualified voters of the region voted to ratify (R.A. No. 11054) which replaced the former ARMM. The remaining legal issue which bothers the mind of intellectuals is “the existing Muslim communities outside of BARMM who were excluded from the present political set up of the present autonomous region” or some asked, “there may be non-Muslim LGU which might opt to join the BARMM”. Such scenario is very much possible; and how the government will address these issues.
Since Sec. 2 of Article XV closed the holding of plebiscite for those who by a petition of at least ten percent (10%) of the registered voters in the local government unit asking for its inclusion in the BARMM, it follows that excluded Muslim communities and non-Muslim areas find hard to join the BARMM. However, there are legal luminaries and intellectuals who advance the idea, that excluded communities (whether Muslim or non-Muslim) communities may still opt to join the BARMM). To enlighten our readers, it is important to revisit the Philippine Constitution, thus, Article X (Local Government) states:
Section 13. Local government units may group themselves, consolidate or coordinate their efforts, services, and resources for purposes commonly beneficial to them in accordance with law.
Section 10. No province, city, municipality, or barangay may be created, divided, merged, abolished, or its boundary substantially altered, except in accordance with the criteria established in the local government code and subject to approval by a majority of the votes cast in a plebiscite in the political units directly affected.
The first provision of the Constitution gives LGU the power to group themselves consolidate or coordinate their efforts, services, and resources while the second implies that LGU’s maybe created, divided, merged, abolished, or its boundary substantially altered provided it is within the criteria established in the local government code and subject to approval by a majority of the votes cast in a plebiscite in the political units directly affected.
While the implementation of the above provisions needs an Act of Congress, it requires an amendment of R.A. No. 11054. On the other hand, some intellectuals and historians, argued that better economic climate including job opportunities and improve peace and order will inevitably convince adjoining LGU to join BARMM. They said, that the lessons of history will repeat itself, In the United States of America (USA) when formed in early 1776 has only thirteen (13) original states joining the union, now it rose to fifty (50) states.
The US constitution granted states “the power to lay and collect taxes; to regulate interstate commerce; to promote the sciences and arts among others, these benefits attracted other states to join the union. But in reality, what convinced other states to join the union is the improved economy, available job opportunities and relative peace in the region. If the same happened in BARMM, adjoining LGU such as Bukidnun, South Cotabato or North Cotabato will opt to join BARMM. Likewise, lowering the rate of electricity by imposing taxes against NAPOCOR and upgrading the lifeline rate for marginalized end users will reduced the present staggering rate by fifty (50%) percent. While improved investment climate such as cheap labor and land costs and a review of investment priority plan (IPP) to favor investors will attract more investments and create jobs.
The “BOL” or RA 11054 has lot of provisions granting the legislative Parliament to imposed taxes and raise revenues to rebuild its ravage region. unfortunately, and with due respect, these are being mislook or untapped by our lawmakers. Once our Parliament explores these opportunities, BARMM will no longer beg from the national government to funds her infrastructures, on the contrary, if BARMM fails, it is possible that other LGU already in the political set up will opt to leave and return to their mother region.
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Atty. Bayan G. Balt is a past Chapter President of the Integrated Bar of the Philippines (IBP-Marawi City and Lanao del Sur, 2013-2015) and Chairman of the Ranao Federal State Movement, (RFSM) [PMT]