II. Truth on Sincerity Exposed (Continuation)
GENERAL SANTOS CITY (MindaNews/27 July 2015) — The voting of the AHCBBL on its report as recapitulated in the first part of this article implied the weak appeal of President Aquino III to the LP-led coalition in the House of Representatives and the disappointing sincerity of the committee members as reflected in the absence of ONE-THIRD of the members. There would be more disappointments after the voting and during the plenary
The Ad Hoc Committee submitted for second reading HB 5811, the amended version of HB 4994, the original Draft BBL. While the revised version retained the two most essential elements of the original – the parliamentary form of government with asymmetric relation to the central (the “central” changed to “national”) government and the block grant — the changes in “language” and “content” showed how the original had been “watered down” and “diluted”.
The House leaders, together with those of the Senate, had assured the Palace and MILF (Moro Islamic Liberation Front) that they would have the Draft BBL scrutinized principally according to its constitutionality, legality and conformity with the Agreements as consolidated in the Comprehensive Agreement on Bangsamoro. (In succeeding articles we will show how HB 5811 deviated from the assurance.)
Sensing early signs that Draft BBL would be watered down and diluted in both the House and the Senate, the President stated a number of times in the media that “no BBL is better than a watered-down and diluted BBL”. Besides issuing the similar statements, the MILF chairman, Al Haj Murad Ebrahim, wrote a letter to the AHCBBL chairman and apparently the Senate President expressing his desire that Draft BBL be kept essentially intact with slight changes only to enhance it.
When the President met the House leaders including the AHCBBL chairman before the committee voting last May 20, it was, as reported, because he was not satisfied with the Chairman’s report. If true, HB 5811 shows that the President had to compromise his “no BBL better than a watered-down and diluted BBL” position – hinting that he will sign whatever BBL the Congress will enact.
At the opening of the plenary session, three Moro representatives, all AHCBBL members, one of them the deputy speaker, sponsored HB 5811. They must have been helpless against the watering down and diluting of the Draft. In appealing for its passage, they were also asking their constituents to consider “any BBL better than no BBL”. Yet, outside the session hall, Moro civic organizations and other BBL advocates were keeping vigil, rallying and urging the Draft intact to have a meaningful Bangsamoro.
Will MILF eventually accept “any BBL” instead of sincerely sticking to “no BBL is better than a watered-down and diluted BBL”?
The plenary exposed the truth about the sincerity of the congressmen (“women included) as representatives of their people. Part of their mandate is to attend sessions. Had they done so HB 5811 could have been – or close to being — passed by the time the Congress adjourned sine die on June 10. By media reports, from June 2 to 10, there hardly was a quorum. Did this show lack of interest in the BBL or the real practice in the Congress?
Sessions opened hours late for the lack of quorum; or, recessed whenever quorum had dissipated after many had left after answering the roll call; or, suspended until the next day for the failure of those who had left to return.
MindaNews candidly reported with pictures the chair declaring a quorum with the hall empty; AHCBBL chair, Rep. Rufus Rodriguez delivering his sponsorship speech to empty chairs; and an interpellation going on with just a handful of souls listening. (See: MindaNews stories of June 2, 3 and 5, 2015)
MindaNews editor Carolyn O. Arguillas reported on June 11 that the BBL interpellations had been suspended unitl after the President has delivered his State of hte Nation Address on July 27. When the sesion was adjourned at 9:20 the night before, only eight of 38 representatives in the interpellation line-up had finished their turn.
Unless ordered by the Supreme Court to suspend deliberations on the BBL pending the resolution of the complaint against the constitutionality of the Framework Agreement on Bangsamoro and the Comprehensive Agreement on Bangsamoro, the interpellations will resume after the SONA, Rodriguez told Mindanews last July 12.
Unless a miracle happens, the plenary will still be mired in quorum problem. Can the interpellations be finished in 15 session days? Will the House leaders and the President be able to whip on line the LP-led coalition to approve the final version of HB 5811 and transmit it to the Senate within August?
The truth about how Draft BBL has been handled may be dismissed, denied, distorted or justified. But like the sun, “behind the clouds it will always be shining” in its wholeness.
First: The members of the House are anemically interested in the BBL. This is shown in the AHCBBL voting and during the ensuing plenary session particularly by the quorum. Was it due to lack of interest in Moro welfare?
It may be. However, no material incentive from the President can really be the foremost reason. Deputy Majority Leader Sherwin Tugna explained to reporters that “in the absence of the pork barrel, or the Priority Development Assistance Fund” the only incentive is “moral suasion”. (Philippine Daily Inquirer, July 26, 2015: Congress passed Aquino landmark bills but …)
Second: The President’s leadership over the LP-led coalition in the Congress is shaky. This may be partly due to the lack of material incentive.
Third: The Congress leaders’ acknowledgment of the vital importance of the BBL to peace in Mindanao and the entire country and their guarantee to pass it in accordance with the FAB and the CAB besides following the 1987 Philippine Constitution and laws are only lip-service.
Fourth: There are indications that the President will abandon his “no BBL better than watered-down and diluted BBL” position and sign any BBL passed before he steps down on June 30, 2016.
Fifth: The enactment of the BBL within Aquino III’s term is uncertain. The latest assurance of Speaker Belmonte to pass it in September is just another promise; he cannot promise for the Senate that is still to come out with its Committee Report on the BBL.
Sincerity of the LP-led coalition and the President’s leadership are off the line. (Comment” is Mr. Patricio P. Diaz’ column for MindaViews, the opinion section of MindaNews. The Titus Brandsma Media Awards honored Mr. Diaz with a “Lifetime Achievement Award” for his “commitment to education and public information to Mindanawons as Journalist, Educator and Peace Advocate.” You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.)