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The afternoon hearing on October 7, 2014 focused on the constitutional bodies, specifically the Civil Service Commission (CSC), Commission on Elections (Comelec), and Commission on Audit (COA) and their respective positions and new roles under the Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL).


See attendance.


Among the key issues discussed were:


• Security of tenure for ARMM employees that will be displaced by the new Bangsamoro government.

• The Bangsamoro government’s primary disciplinary authority over government employees in the Bangsamoro.

• The appointment of a Bangsamoro commissioner for each constitutional body.

• The “opt-in anytime” provisions for barangays / municipalities.

• COA’s dissenting opinion on the BBL.


Rep. Lobregat has requested that all position papers by all agencies and constitutional bodies be submitted to the Ad Hoc Committee. The Secretary of the Committee was tasked to collect all the position papers for the committee’s information and guidance. 


Our observations

Some members of the Ad Hoc committee were careful to emphasize that the questions or points of clarification they raise are mainly to ensure that all issues surrounding the BBL are resolved to the satisfaction of the people, and that their ultimate aim is likewise the smooth passage of the BBL. With the exception of Rep. Lobregat who always challenged the panel with lengthy questions and dissenting opinions, this seems to mirror the sentiments of the rest of the committee members. However, Rep. Lobregat was also quick to point out that he is “for peace, and merely wants to clear any ambiguity”, and that he wants to pass a law that can withstand any legal scrutiny.


Among the three constitutional bodies questioned, only the CSC appeared to be ready to cooperate under the Bangsamoro, and is in fact making preparations for the transition. Comelec’s seeming unpreparedness and lack of accord among its commissioners, even after a series of consultations, signals a certain unwillingness to cooperate. COA, on the other hand, was more straightforward in their opposition to the BBL. It was unfortunate that the Comelec panel has already left the hearing when Committee Chair Rep. Rodriguez made statements on giving the Bangsamoro a chance to experience true autonomy. “This will usher in a new dawn, new hopes”, he said.




Civil Service Commission 

Question / Issue



Unlike in the Constitution, in the BBL there is no mention of people naming themselves as Filipinos and pledging allegiance to the Philippine Constitution.

All officials are required to take their oath of allegiance to the country.


The BBL empowers the Bangsamoro Parliament to come up with (its own) Code of Civil Service – even if the provisions would be contrary (to the Constitution)?

This is not possible.


Isn’t it that the Bangsamoro will have the authority to develop (its own) civil service corps, which will include the LGU employees? (This question came up in the Davao consultations)

A transition team is being organized now to ensure a smooth transition, and all positions are being evaluated. All civil service rules will have to apply. Separation benefits will be paid for by the national gov’t.


What will happen to the permanent employees of the ARMM?

All CSC rules will apply. There must be alternatives for those who will be displaced.


Rep. Tinio: We request that the CSC in the current ARMM provide this committee with the figures – how many permanent employees, contractuals, etc., and according to gender.

There are 23,000 civil servants in ARMM, 18,000 of which are teachers. This means 5,000 work in other government agencies.

As was discussed in the CSC en banc session, we will have to scale down the CSC ARMM office in preparation for the Bangsamoro.


How about jurisdiction over (civil service) cases?

These cases are still appealable to CSC and the Court of Appeals.


Is there a possibility for CSC to draft a provision for the BBL to protect the benefits of employees?

There might be abolition or creation of positions. They will be given a chance to fill up the new positions if they are qualified. So we must clearly state the qualifications for the new positions.


Previous employees of Regions 9 & 12 were accommodated under ARMM. Can the same security of term be given?

We can’t promise a 100% re-employment. Just like with the rationalization of other gov’t agencies, CSC will help them apply (for other positions).


The Bangsamoro shall have primary disciplinary authority over the civil service.

CSC: (This provision) was not from CSC. At present, CSC has the same jurisdiction with filing of cases as the LGUs. The appointing authority has the primary authority to discipline.


The Bangsamoro’s power is without prejudice to the power, authority and duty of the CSC, in consonance with the Admin Code (EO 292)?

The Bangsamoro being the primary disciplinary authority has the power to appoint and the power to discipline. How can this be if they and CSC have concurrent powers?

Disciplinary measures (on the employee) are implemented by the government agency concerned. Except for instances when, for example, an employee (has a case against another) and could not file his complaint to the head of the agency. They then file the complaint with the CSC.


If a case is filed against a director at the Bangsamoro, can (the complainant) go directly to CSC? What is the meaning of primary disciplinary authority?

Those who hire must have the authority to fire. This will make it more efficient, rather than raising all issues to the CSC. There are already too many issues filed at the national level without going through the regional level.


What if the CSC is stopped because the Bangsamoro has the primary disciplinary authority? There is a difference between concurrent powers and appellate power.

Due process will be followed. The immediate gov’t authority must exercise (the power). Then, by default, (if cannot be acted upon) will go to the CSC.


We must assure that, with the abolition of ARMM and everybody could be dismissed, that the law is humane enough, that we protect their security (of tenure). BBL should have a protection provision to give them the assurance.

This should be included in the Transitory Provisions.


CSC should draft those provisions.

There is an existing provision – Art. 15, Sec. 9.


Lobregat: BBL requires one CSC commissioner to come from the Bangsamoro. CSC has only 3 commissioners. The same is true with the Comelec… etc.

This was also provided for in RA 9054 but was not implemented.


RA 9054 states that “as far as as practicable”. It was not mandatory.

Bacani: It was just a statement of intent, of affirmative action. It is a policy, and not mandatory. It is not diminishing the power of the President to appoint anybody he wants.


The power to appoint is really supreme. You will be sending the wrong signals if you say the President will break the policy. The President should be the first to follow policy. This will present a constitutional problem.


Congressman Lobregat posed these series of questions one after another.

Under the Bangsamoro, you cannot go to court because the Inter-Gov’t Relations Mechanism will settle all disputes. Going to court would be adversarial.


The constitutional bodies should be independent. This is a dangerous provision because the Constitution says the CSC is the central personnel agency. It cannot be downgraded to have concurrent powers. In terms of control and supervision – who will hire? Therefore the Bangsamoro will have the control and supervision. The CSC must protect its constitutional mandate.

“Concurrent” refers only to disciplining authority.

Everything is still in consonance with EO 292 and the Constitution.


The same is true in the case of Bureau of Customs. Sec 210 (?) Art. 15 states the CSC is under the reserved powers of government. What is “concurrent”? Please qualify it.

BTA: The CSC (head office) cannot monitor the entire country. All gov’t agencies (are the ones) implementing the CSC Rules -- the human resource units. It is a shared power actually – the day to day enforcement of CSC rules are done by the agency concerned.


Rep. Acharon: Does one of the commissioners have to resign to give way to one from the Bangsamoro because only 2 commissioners are allowed?

What will happen to the gov’t structure after the ARMM is abolished? BTA will come in, but the elections is still in May 2016. This will create a vacuum.

Art. 16 provides for transitory arrangements – the powers and authority of the interim cabinet, etc.

The first question was given in jest.

Rep. Tinio: The CSC’s position paper seems to be a critique of the BBL.

CSC: Sec. 8 of the proposed HB 4994 should not prejudice the power of the CSC that emanates from AO 292.


Do you agree with having concurrent powers? Is the CSC position that the Bangsamoro CSC should be under the control and supervision of the national CSC consistent with having concurrent powers?

There are many ways concurrent power is exercised, e.g., one may assume primary responsibility over peace and order. Whatever office they put up should not prejudice the power of the national CSC.


What status will people hired by the BTA have – temporary?

Contractual. Co-terminus with BTA


Would appreciate receiving an expanded position paper.




Commission on Elections

Comelec has yet to submit its position paper because as of this date, the Comelec Commissioners are still divided on certain provisions in the BBL. Among the points of difficulty are:


Basis for determination of voters (Sec. 1 and Sec. 3 Art 15) – “Basis should not be majority of registered voters, but majority of votes cast”.


Conduct of plebiscite


• Comelec needs at least 6 months for the conduct of the first plebiscite. Procurement process takes 3 months.

• Comelec might not have the budget required.

• It takes at least one month to verify the petition signatures. They have communicated this problem with the BTA as early as last year.


Special registration - There is no need for a special registration because Comelec has an ongoing regular registration.


Overseas and absentee voting – The BBL provides that anyone can register even though they are elsewhere (in Manila, etc). “We cannot allow voters to register in one area and vote in another area”. Comelec will not allow local absentee voting.


Elections schedule – Due to (budget & manpower) constraints, it must coincide with the synchronized May 2016 elections. If not, in the October barangay elections. It cannot be held earlier.


Foreign observers and monitoring bodies – Monitoring bodies should cover ALL operations. “We want ALL operations to be included”.


Issues / Questions

Response by Comelec


Can you give us a ballpark figure of the required budget?

P400 to P500 million


Lobregat: There should be no special registration of voters. There will be an influx of new voters in the area, this is very dangerous.


Henceforth, the Comelec representatives could not give solid answers because “everything is still under deliberation by the Commissioners”.

Is the Electoral Office under the Bangsamoro under the Comelec?

(Mentions Sec. 9). Some Commissioners want to maintain the current set up. We are still deliberating on the matter.


Were you not consulted on the matter? Why are you discussing this only now?

We were consulted (as early as) 2012. We have monthly consultations. These issues have been raised on several occasions.


If an LGU is located outside Bangsamoro, why would the Bangsamoro Comelec accept it if a plebiscite was conducted outside Bangsamoro?

(Cites Art. 7 Sec. 9 p. 27)

Commissioners have expressed concern over the schedule of the plebiscite, and the result of the plebiscite outside Bangsamoro.


Why create a Bangsamoro electoral office? Who will hire them?

This is among the points being discussed now by the Commissioners.


We should also protect the areas outside Bangsamoro, especially with the “opt in anytime” provision. This will lead to a creeping Bangsamoro expansion. Other regions do not expand all the time. Just one plebiscite, and that’s it.

Still being discussed.


Rep. Lobregat suggested a special session be held with each constitutional body.


Precisely what was being held.

Rep. Sacdalan: 39 barangays are included in my district, out of 544 barangays. Will they transfer to Maguindanao or be retained as North Cotabato? If they opt to stay as part of North Cotabato, where will they vote?

They will vote only in the locality they are a part of.

Cong. Lobregat later gave these statements concerning the matter of the 39 barangays of (Lanao del Norte?): (Sec. 15 & 18). “This question has already been answered in the deliberations by the constitutional commission. The term “municipalities” has been removed. There are only “provinces” and “cities”. In the case of Lanao del Norte, they will have to follow the result of the province.

            “Areas outside of ARMM were asked the question ‘Do you want to join….?’. Areas outside of ARMM could not vote on the ratification”.

According to the Constitution, they will need the consent of the entire province.


Rep. Alejano: They may opt in anytime?

Anytime they may file a petition but must be scheduled in a regular electoral exercise.


Can they opt out?

Should have a provision to opt out.

Ferrer: Sec. 5 / Sec. 7. The collective rights of the people shall be recognized. Will require the concurrence of the whole unit. Sec. 7 provides for that (opt out) possibility. Art 3 – the collective right to decide.


Re: Regional partylists (Art. 7 Sec. 7). Is there a remedy for parties that think they are marginalized by the Bangsamoro? How about groups of people who are not accredited by the Bangsamoro, because they are seen as threats? Where can they file a case?

Ferrer: He will be appointed by the President and will be independent.

The parties can file (complaint) with the Comelec, or regular courts, or complain to the President.

Comelec restated that they will still deliberate on the matter. At this point, Chairman Rodriguez stated that “in case of arbitrary denial of registration of a partylist, they can file a complaint with the Comelec en banc. There is no need for appellate jurisdiction. As a matter of procedure, the Comelec en banc must follow the election code. The Bangsamoro cannot pass a law in conflict with the election code. There is no need to deliberate further.”



Commission on Audit  

Questions / Issues



Asst. Comm. Soza informed the body about COA’s disagreement with the provisions of Art. 5 (Auditing) and Art. 12 (Fiscal Autonomy) and gave the following reasons:

(1) On constitutional grounds, COA has exclusive authority to promulgate rules & regulations for the audit of funds. COA is the only agency assigned under the constitution to audit funds of the gov’t.

(2) Constitution prohibits Congress from enacting a law removing from COA’s jurisdiction the audit of funds. BBL places this jurisdiction outside of COA to a certain extent.

(3) In case of contradictory findings between two parallel audits, conflict will arise.

Bacani informed the body that COA had a series of consultations with BTA in May and July 2013, including the COA Chair. He explained that the BBL is a proposal to assist the COA in maintaining transparency. Bangsamoro has a commitment to be transparent. “Why not welcome a transparency mechanism?”Bacani further assured the body that COA’s powers shall be retained.


Rep. Hernandez: Implying that COA has not been effective in the past.


COA Asst. Comm. Soza: COA will only come in after the Bangsamoro has already audited the transaction. We won’t even have a copy. This is a deviation from COA’s mandate.

Chairman Rodriguez took the cudgels for the BTC Team and the government panel by making the following points:


• These could only be expected with autonomy and devolution of powers.


• Bangsamoro should be allowed to mature into an entity and audit their own funds. “After all, they will be the ones affected. I appeal that we give them some leeway.”


• In devolutions in other parts of the world, e.g, Scotland, they are given the means to audit their own. “We should give them the autonomy they deserve”.


• This does not violate any constitutional provision because ultimately COA shall settle all accounts.

“COA’s powers shall reign supreme. The Bangsamoro Audit body is just a layer because of the devolved power. Let us give this political entity a chance to blossom by giving them fiscal autonomy. This will bring a new dawn, new hopes. To say at this point that they will fail is premature”.

It appears, as reiterated by Asst Comm. Soza, that COA as a body has already decided with finality on their position on the matter.

COA: “As presently worded in the BBL, just like normal auditing procedures, once a transaction has been audited (by the Bangsamoro Audit body), COA can no longer open the account for audit, unless there is a question”.

Rodriguez: If we will not have a Bangsamoro COA, then it would not be a complete autonomy. It would be an incomplete devolution of power.


COA: “We look at it from the matter of the constitutional provision on the powers of COA”.

Rodriguez: COA will still be the ultimate auditing authority. COA may still go through the same accounts already audited by the Bangsamoro.




Concluding Statements

Chairman Rodriguez underscored the fact that the Ad Hoc Committee members showed their dedication to the immediate passage of the BBL when they showed up for the Committee hearing even during Congress recess.


The following day’s session will wrap up the discussions on the role and positions of major government agencies that will be involved in the transition process, in time for the scheduled out-of-town consultations more than a week later.



Report on congressional committee hearings on the BBL conducted by the Senate Committee on Local Government and the Senate Committee on Peace and Unification on Sept. 22, 2014


Report on the first committee hearing on the Bangsamoro Basic Law at the House of Representatives on Sept. 24, 2014