DAVAO CITY (MindaNews/ 12 July) – The House of Representatives will resume deliberations on the Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) next month without waiting for the Supreme Court’s ruling on the petitions filed by the Philippine Constitution Association (Philconsa) and a former representative “to declare as unconstitutional and void” the Framework Agreement on the Bangsamoro (FAB) and the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro (CAB), Cagayan de Oro Rep. Rufus Rodriguez, chair of the Ad Hoc Committee on the BBL, said.
“We will continue deliberations in August,” Rodriguez told MindaNews in a text message Sunday afternoon, adding “there is no TRO (temporary restraining order) issued by the Supreme Court.”
The Philippine government (GPH) and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) signed the FAB on October 15, 2012 and the CAB on March 27, 2014.
Both parties agreed under the FAB that the status quo was not acceptable and that they would work for the creation of a new autonomous political entity called the Bangsamoro, that would replace what is now the 25-year old Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM). President Benigno Simeon Aquino III had earlier dubbed the ARMM a “failed experiment.”
The Philconsa, which also sought the issuance of a TRO and/or writ of preliminary injunction, is being represented in the petition by its President, Lakas Rep. Ferdinand Martin Romualdez, former Senator Francisco “Kit” Tatad, Arcbhishops Ramon Arguelles of Lipa and Romulo dela Cruz of Zamboanga, Davao City’s Archbishop Emeritus Fernando Capalla, and Norberto Gonzales, who held several positions in the Arroyo administration, including Defense Secretary and National Security Adviser.
The Philconsa filed its petition on June 19, the same day former Lakas Rep. Jacinto Paras of Negros Occidental also filed a similar petition. The Philconsa included former GPH peace panel chair Marvic Leonen, now Supreme Court Associate Justice, as among the respondents. Leonen was chair when the FAB was signed.
The other respondents in the Philconsa petition are GPH peace panel chair Miriam Coronel-Ferrer, MILF peace panel chair Mohagher Iqbal and Budget Secretary Florencio Abad.
The Paras petition, on the other hand, has Ferrer, GPH peace panel members Senen Bacani, Yasmin Busran-Lao and Mehol Sadain, as well as Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process Teresita Quintos-Deles, as respondents.
The proposed BBL, drafted by the 15-member GPH-MILF Bangsamoro Transition Commission (BTC) was based on the FAB and CAB. The BTC submitted its draft to Congress in ceremonial rites held at Malacanang on September 10, 2014.
The draft bill became HB 4994 in the House of Representatives and SB 2408 in the Senate.
The 98-member Ad Hoc Committee on the Bangsamoro Basic Law approved on May 20 by a vote of 50 in favor, 17 against and one abstention, its substitute bill, HB 5811, providing for a Basic Law for the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region, in what Committee chair Rep. Rufus Rodriguez of Cagayan de Oro described as a “historic vote,” an “affirmative action to fully correct centuries of neglect and injustice.”
The Committee version, however, has been criticized as offering an autonomous region that is less than the ARMM.
The House of Representatives suspended interpellations on HB 5811, the substitute bill to the BBL at 9:20 p.m. on June 10 before adjourning sine die.
Only eight of 38 representatives who signed up to interpellate finished: Minority leader Ronnie Zamora of San Juan City and Camarines Sur Rep. Rolando Andaya on June 2; Negros Oriental Rep. Pryde Henry Teves on June 3; Zamboanga del Norte Rep. Seth Frederick Jalosjos and Palawan Rep. Frederick Abueg on June 4; Gabriela party-list Rep. Luz Ilagan on June 9 and Bayan Muna party list Rep. Carlos Isagani Zarate and Magdalo party-list Rep. Gary Alejano on June 10.
Zamboanga City Rep. Celso Lobregat started interpellating on June 3, continued on June 4, 8, 9 and 10.
When the presiding officer ruled on the motion to suspend Lobregat’s interpellation at 9:20 p.m., Lobregat clarified if it was mere suspension and not termination.
By then, Lobregat had clocked a total of 10 hours and 32 minutes of interpellation in five days. On June 10, he interpellated for four hours and 47 minutes.
Lobregat, who had over a hundred proposed amendments during the Committee hearing, but whose motions were repeatedly defeated by a vote of the majority, had found his platform – the plenary – to say his piece.
He told MindaNews on Sunday that he does not know the decision of the House leadership on resuming deliberations on the BBL while petitions to declare the FAB and CAB unconstitutional are pending in the Supreme Court.
He said he has not finished his interpellation “but I think I will let the others interpellate first.”
MindaNews asked how far his interpellation would go and he said he was “nasa kalahati na” (halfway).
At the Senate, the Senate Committee on Local Governments ended its committee hearings before Congress adjourned sine die on June 10.
Senator Ferdinand Marcos had, during that week, delivered a privilege speech saying the BBl in its present form and substance would “lead us to perdition.”
Marcos had said he would submit to the Senate a substitute bill before the President delivers his SONA on July 27. (Carolyn O. Arguillas / MindaNews)