COMMENT: BBL: Aquino Assumes Command (2)

II. Truth on Sincerity Exposed

GENERAL SANTOS CITY, July 24, 2015 – Part I of this article, “Leadership Strength Indicator”, was posted in MindaNews last May 28 and 29. Normally, Part II would have followed immediately. However, that was not so. Whatever, the lapse in time has been providential; it exposed much more of truth on the sincerity of the Congress and to some extent of the Palace in passing the Basic Bangsamoro Law (BBL) to establish a truly meaningful Bangsamoro – renamed Bangsamoro Autonomous Region.

The leadership strength of President Benigno Simeon C. Aquino III’s rests on how he wields his power in the coalition of his party, the Liberal Party, in the Congress with the Nacionalista Party, Nationalist People’s Coalition, National Unity Party and Party-list Akbayan. Can he make the coalition toe his line?

Part I focused on two events and their significance: on the two meetings of the President with House leaders before the Ad Hoc Committee on BBL (AHCBBL) voted on its report on HB 4994 (Draft BBL) last May 20; and, on the results of the voting.

On the Two Meetings

The President called House leaders to two meetings – only LP-led coalition on May 15 and with AHCBBL Chair Rufus Rodriguez on May 17 – to discuss the “Chairman and Vice Chairman Draft” (CVCD), the report to be voted upon, of which he was reportedly not satisfied. By this we perceived the President was assuming command.

The questions: What was in the President’s mind? Was it, foremost, to rally the House leaders to pass Draft BBL (HB 4994) essentially adhering to the original draft and the Comprehensive Agreement on Bangsamor (CAB); or, in reality, to strike a compromise to just secure the vote for a BBL regardless of meaningfulness to Bangsamoro? Those two meetings could turn out to be the start of an exposé of truth on sincerity.

The President’s burden: Whether Bangsamoro or Bangsamoro Autonomous Region will be aborted or born – if born, whether healthy or handicapped – greatly depends on the President. If he is really a strong leader, he must not allow the Congress to water down, dilute or re-make the agreed plan to solve the Moro Problem that took 17 years to hammer out in contentious negotiations. “Democratic process” and the “doctrine of separation of powers” are not excuses not to protect the “unborn”.

The AHCBBLVoting

Alone, the LP-led coalition can pass HB 5511 – (amending HB 4994 as revised into the CVCD-Malacañang Version) — in the coming plenary vote; but by default, the LP-led Coalition can kill it. The AHCBBL voting was not reassuring.

The ACHBBL has 75 regular members to conduct the committee hearings and prepare the report and 23 ex-officio members composed of the Speaker, the majority and minority leaders and their deputies. They all took part in the voting of the committee report for the plenary.

In the entire 98-membership, despite the LP-led coalition in commanding 62.24 percent majority (61), the report could not have passed without the vote of the non-coalition members. The report was passed by a mere 51.02 percent majority (50) against 11 NO, one ABSTAIN and 30 (30.61%) ABSENT. The turn-out of the coalition was a disappointing 23.6 percent.

The voting of the 75 regular members showed significantly how undependable the LP-led coalition is. Of the 40 that voted YES, only 37.33 percent (28) came from the coalition (24 LP, 2 NP, 2 NPC). Thanks to seven from other parties and five from the party-lists joined the 28 to compile a 53.33 percent YES. While only four from the coalition voted NO, 14 (18.67%) were absent.

Leadership Implication

The 23.6 percent YES turn-out of the LP-led coalition in AHC-98 is an alarm call for the President and the House LP-led leaders to work – not only double-time and doubly hard – to rally their own people to pass the BBL. Victory, like charity, begins at home.

If the ACHBBL vote was not reassuring, the lesser it will be in the plenary. In the 98-member ACHBLL, the percentage ratio of Mindanaons (66) to non-Mindanaons (32) is 67 to 33. In the 291-member House the percentage ratio is very much more skewed in reverse. Of the 235 district representatives, only 59 and of the 56 party-lists, only 10 are Mindanaons.

Of the 66 Mindanaons in the AHCBBL, 40 (60.6%) and of the 32 non-Mindanaons, 10 (31.25%) voted YES. The interest of non-Mindanaons in the BBL is much less than that of the Mindanaons.

In the House, the President’s best ace is the LP-led coalition composed of 178 district representatives, more than 70 percent potential majority. Can he turn this into reality? In the Senate, it is different; but strong leadership can turn the tide.

Besides leadership implication – the President’s appeal to the coalition is not really that strong – the voting also shed some truth in the sincerity of the members of the Congress. Whether they would vote YES, NO or ABSTAIN is their personal right and must be respected. But members of the committee have the obligation to attend the voting. The 36.61 percent (30 of the 98) in entire membership and the 32 percent (24 of the 75) in the regular membership of the AHCBBL is a disappointing reflection of sincerity.

More will be exposed after the voting and during the plenary debate and voting.

(To Be Continued Tomorrow)