Palace Ready to Accept Fate of Bangsamoro Law

Women members of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF)
Women members of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF)

Manila, Philippines, 20 Rabiul Akhir 1437/30 January 2016 (MINA) – Malacañang is ready to accept the fate of the proposed Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) in Congress, saying attaining peace in Mindanao is not limited to the passage of the measure.

“Whether or not the BBL is passed, the Aquino administration will remain determined in  encouraging all stakeholders to give peace a chance,” Secretary Herminio Coloma Jr. of the Presidential Communications Operations Office said Friday.

Coloma made the statement after Senate President Franklin Drilon and Speaker Feliciano Belmonte Jr. conceded that time is running out for Congress to pass the priority measure, Mi’raj Islamic News Agency (MINA) reported, quoting Philstar.

“We have three days left. Let’s see. I cannot be certain about that,” Drilon said.

The BBL needs to be ratified by Congress in order to be implemented as the governing law for the Bangsamoro region, which will replace the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao.

The House of Represenatatives has ended debates on the BBL and started the period of amendments. But the long speeches of congressmen against the measure have taken much time that the prospects of its passage in the chamber are almost nil.

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Lawmakers will adjourn session next week for the long election campaign.

Even if the BBL breezes through the House, it still has to hurdle the Senate.

The Senate has prepared a different version of the measure and renamed it Basic Law for the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region.

Sen. Ferdinand Marcos Jr., chairman of the Senate committte on local government, said efforts to attain peace in Mindanao should not be shelved even if Congress is unable to approve the BBL.

“I agree that we are running out of time to pass the BBL but we should not give up on finding efforts to have peace in Mindanao,” he said.

Marcos said the Senate probe on the Mamasapano operation delayed the deliberations on the BBL.

 

House to tackle ‘dead’ BBL

The House of Representatives will still tackle the BBL even if some authors of the measure have declared it “already dead.”

Majority Leader Neptali Gonzales II said yesterday the BBL bill remains on top of the House agenda for the last three session days next week.

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“We will still tackle it because it is in our agenda. We will try to finish the speeches against the bill and go through the period of amendments. That is, if we can muster a quorum,” Gonzales said.

He said if amendments are completed by Tuesday or Wednesday, House leaders would decide whether they would put the proposed BBL to a second-reading vote.

“I am almost sure we will have a quorum on Wednesday, our last session day. So we can call for a vote on the bill,” he said.

However, Gonzales pointed out that he is not sure of the outcome of the voting, if it happens.

Cagayan de Oro City Rep. Rufus Rodriguez, principal sponsor of the BBL bill, said he remains hopeful that the House could pass the measure on second reading.

“We still have time for the amendments and the vote. We should approve it for the sake of peace,” he said.

Rodriguez said the first amendment he would propose would be the deletion of the opt-in provision, which seeks to allow the envisioned new Bangsamoro autonomous regional government to expand.

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He said House leaders have agreed to the deletion to lessen opposition to the draft BBL from Mindanao congressmen, who fear they could lose their districts to the Bangsamoro region.

Rodriguez pointed out that the ad hoc committee on the proposed BBL, which he heads, had scrapped at least 40 controversial and constitutionally questionable provisions of the measure.

He stressed that his committee’s version should be acceptable to most House members.

At least three Muslim proponents of the proposed BBL, including Deputy Speaker Pangalian Balindong, have given up hopes that Congress could still approve the measure.

Even the Speaker has thrown in the towel.

“Realistically, the target of passing it in the House is remote but still possible. That it will become law is impossible because the Senate version is different and has not even been discussed in plenary,” Belmonte said.

Senators have said they would have to await approval of the congressmen’s version of the proposed BBL, which is considered a local bill and should originate from the House. (T/R07/R04 )

Mi’raj Islamic News Agency (MINA)