Draft Bangsamoro Basic Law submitted to Congress by July 28

COTABATO CITY (MindaNews/10 June) – Exactly seven weeks to the day it received the draft Bangsamoro Basic Law from the Bangsamoro Transition Commission (BTC), Malacanang is still conducting what a joint statement from Malacanang and the BTC describes as a “thorough, extensive and comprehensive review” of the draft that will be submitted to Congress seven weeks from now, when it resumes sessions on July 28.

“We acknowledge the urgency behind the immediate passage of the BBL. However, we also recognize that a thorough, extensive and comprehensive review of the draft law’s numerous provisions is a necessary part of the process to ensure that these are consistent with what the parties agreed upon in the 17 years of peace negotiation,” the seven-paragraph joint statement issued Tuesday (June 10) by Executive Secretary Paquito Ochoa and BTC chair Mohagher Iqbal, said.

The statement, e-mailed to media outlets by the media bureau of the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process (OPAPP) at 1:10 p.m. on June 10 noted that
efforts “have already been made to coordinate with the Senate and House leadership to ensure that the draft BBL is submitted to Congress when sessions resume in July.”

Congress goes on sine die adjournment on June 11 and will resume sessions on July 28, with the President delivering his State of the Nation Address (SONA).

Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process Teresita Quintos-Deles had hinted in her opening remarks at the International Conference of Cotabato at the Notre Dame University in Cotabato City on Friday that the 97-page draft will not be transmitted before Congress adjourns on June 11. She said it was still undergoing a “thorough process of review” by the Office of the President to ensure Congress gets a “more refined and strengthened” draft.

Senate President Franklin Drilon, in a message read for him by Cardinal Orlando Quevedo in the Cotabato conference, assured the Senate’s support to the peace process and their commitment to pass what he refers to as “unifying and integrating” Basic Law.

Drilon said they will “ensure that the Bangsamoro law falls within the four corners of the Constitution and that it can withstand judicial scrutiny.”

He vowed to pass the law “as early as possible.”

Deles urged hundreds of conference participants to “look at what’s going on from a glass-half-full perspective.”

“We have waited 17 long years for a mutually binding and acceptable peace process with the MILF; and yet that has been achieved within three years of this administration. We can be bold in taking a few more days, if not weeks, to ensure a more refined and strengthened draft BBL to be stewarded by the leadership of both Houses of Congress through the legislative process and thereafter for ratification through plebiscite,” she said.

In the revised roadmap of the GPH-MILF peace process – now constituting 11 steps from creation of the BTC to signing of the exit document — only Steps 1 and 2 have been completed: the BTC was created in February 2013 and the Basic Law was drafted and submitted to Malacanang on April 22.

The other steps: 3. Draft BBL submitted to Congress; 4. President certifies proposed Basic Law as urgent; 5. Congress passes BBL; 6. Plebiscite conducted to ratify law; 7. Basic law enacted; BTC ceases to exist; 8. ARMM is deemed abolished once the Basic Law is ratified; 9. Bangsamoro Transition Authority officials are appointed; 10. Election of officials of Bangsamoro Government by 2016; and Step 11, the signing of the exit document “officially terminating the peace negotiation may be crafted and signed by both Parties if and only when all agreements have been fully implemented.”

In last year’s SONA, the President urged Congress to pass the Bangsamoro Basic Law before end of 2014 to allow more time for the transition from the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) to the Bangasmoro, a new autonomous political entity with a ministerial form of governance.

Both parties are eyeing June 30, 2016, the end of the Aquino administration’s six-year term, as the inaugural of the regular Bangsamoro government and the proclamation of the first set of elected officials

As of June 10, there are only 751 days left to June 30, 2016. (Carolyn O. Arguillas / MindaNews)