Drilon says BBL still a “top priority’

DAVAO CITY (MindaNews / 22 November) – The passage of the Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) is still a “top priority,” Senate President Franklin M. Drilon said as he gave assurance there is “enough time and political will” to pass it before the Christmas break.

“We have enough time and political will to ensure that this bill so crucial to forging peace in Muslim Mindanao will be passed and see the light of the day,” Drilon said in a November 21 press statement posted on the Senate website.

Drilon and Speaker Feliciano Belmonte, Jr. of the House of Representatives last month eyed December 16 as their new deadline to pass the Bangsamoro law that would pave the way for the creation of a new autonomous political entity that would replace the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) set up in 1990.

From November 23 when sessions resume after the week-long break due to the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Summit, to the target deadline on December 16, Congress has only 11 session days before it goes on break from December 19 to January 18.

Drilon acknowledged that while the 2016 national budget will consume most of the Senate’s time when they resume sessions on November 23, passing the BBL is still a “top priority.”

“From this week to the first week of December, we expect to be busy tackling the 2016 national budget, which we also need to pass before the year ends. After that, we will devote the rest of our sessions to passing the BBL,” Drilon was quoted as saying.

From December 7, the start of the second week of December, to December 16, the Senate has only six session days to tackle BBL and other priority measures like SSL (Salary Standardization Law).

The Senate press release said Drilon is coordinating with Senator Ferdinand Marcos Jr.,c chair of the Senate Committee on Local Government “to ensure that the bill’s passage is still doable before the year ends.”

“I call on my colleagues not to abandon this piece of legislation so crucial to the establishment of peace and development in Mindanao. We can make the most of out our remaining session days by passing this bill, along with other important legislation such as the 2016 national budget,” Drilon said, as he urged Senators, especially those running for next year’s elections, “to be present in the plenary hearings and actively participate in deliberations.”

Drilon also said that the Senate leadership is working closely with Speaker Belmonte to closely monitor and guide the BBL’s progress in both houses.

While only one Senator, Juan Ponce Enrile, was able to interpellate during the sessions on November 3 to November 11, at the House of Representatives, the period of interpellation, suspended on September 23, has not resumed due to lack of quorum on November 3, 4, 9 and 10. The session on the 11th was spent on SSL.

The Committees tackling the BBL in Congress – Marcos’ committee in the Senate and the Ad Hoc Committee on the Bangsamoro Law at the House of Representatives – have submitted to the plenary their substitute bills SB 2894 and HB 5811 or the Basic Law for the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region (BLBAR). The two substitute bills in their present form, however, are being criticized for envisioning a Bangsamoro that is “less than the ARMM that it seeks to replace.”

The Senate version, according to Mohagher Iqbal, chair of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front peace panel and the Bangsamoro Transition Commission that drafted the BBL, changed 90 per cent of the BBL submitted to Congress on September 10, 2014 — what became SB 2408 and HB 5811 – even reducing the future Bangsamoro into a mere local government unit. (Carolyn O. Arguillas / MindaNews)