FALSE

Presidential aspirant Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr. is not the principal author of the country’s baselines law when he was a congressman, contrary to a claim of Manila Bulletin columnist Anna Mae Lamentillo.

The principal author of Republic Act 9522 or the Philippine Archipelagic Baselines Law in the House of Representatives during the 14th Congress was Cebu Rep. Antonio Cuenco who filed House Bill 1202 in July 2017 and later substituted it with HB 3216 in December that year. 

The Senate version, SB 2699, was introduced by Senators Antonio Trillanes IV, Aquilino Pimentel III, Edgardo Angara, Rodolfo Biazon, Juan Ponce Enrile and Miriam Defensor Santiago. 

Signed on March 10, 2009, RA 9522 amends certain provisions of Republic Act 3046, as amended by RA 5446, to define the country’s archipelagic baselines. 

In her Jan. 12 column, Lamentillo said, “As legislator, one of the most important pieces of legislation that BBM (Marcos) authored is the Philippine Archipelagic Baselines Law (R.A. 9522), which defines what constitutes the Philippine territorial sea.”

The excerpt appears in a quote card Manila Bulletin uploaded Jan. 12 to Facebook to promote Lamentillo’s column.

Records show that Marcos, who represented Ilocos Norte in the 14th Congress, was among three legislators to file supplemental bills on the Baselines Law in 2008. 

House records, however, state that these bills, including HB 3969 filed by Marcos, had been “pending with the Foreign Affairs committee” since April 2008 and not consolidated into the final version.

The quote card of Lamentillo’s erroneous claim has been taken down after this was fact-checked by, among others, Jay Batongbacal, associate professor at the University of the Philippines College of Law and director of the university’s Institute for Maritime Affairs and Law of the Sea.

Her column online is still up but has been reworded: “authored” was replaced with the phrase “was a part of.” 

It now reads: “As legislator, one of the most important pieces of legislation that BBM was a part of  is the Philippine Archipelagic Baselines Law (R.A. 9522), which defines what constitutes the Philippine territorial sea.

In a Facebook post on Jan. 14, the Manila Bulletin columnist tried to explain Marcos’ authorship of the bill through the supplemental bill he had filed and his membership in the House conference committee that finalized the law.  

She said: “If you keyed in ‘Baselines Law’ or ‘Archipelagic’ in your website search of the House of Representatives, HB 3969 would not appear since the BBM version did not carry a short title. But even assuming you want to discuss only HB 3216 which substituted HB 1202 — BBM would still be part of the House Conference Committee alongside Speaker Nograles, Cong Ablan, among others.”

Membership in the conference committee is not equivalent to principal authorship of a bill.