DAVAO CITY (MindaNews/16 Nov) — The new target for the passage of the Bangsamoro Basic Law is “end of February,” Cagayan de Oro Rep. Rufus Rodriguez, chair of the 75-member Ad Hoc Committee on the Bangsamoro Basic Law (AHCBBL) said.
Rodriguez told MindaNews in a text message that they will “finish all 32 public hearings on the BBL in Mindanao, Visayas, Luzon” and in the House of Representatives by December 17.
“This will be the most comprehensive and inclusive consultations in the history of the House of Representatives,” he said.
Rodriguez added that the Ad Hoc Commitee “will then deliberate on the bill when we resume session on January 19.”
Plenary debates are “expected starting Feb 2 and approval by end of February,” Rodriguez said.
Congress takes a break from December 20 to January 18, 2015, will resume sessions from January 19 to March 20 and will go on break again from March 21 to May 3.
Rodriguez told MindaNews on September 14 that the draft Bangsamoro Basic Law, now House Bill 4994 (and Senate Bill 2408) was targeted for passing by December 17 this year so the plebiscite could be held “February or March” next year
The new target for passage of the Basic Law – end of February – means a delay again in the conduct of the plebiscite that would shorten even more the transition period.
The Commission on Elections (Comelec) has repeatedly said it needs six months to prepare for the elections, inclusive of the period for information campaign.
“Our position is that we need six months to prepare (for the plebiscite”), Comelec Commissioner Luie Tito Ferrer Guia, co-chair of the Committee on Bangsamoro Plebiscite Matters, told MindaNews in a text message Sunday evening.
But Guia added, “However, we would have to adjust to the situation. Probably, if it gets to the point that the law is not passed by February.”
He said in their calendar for the May 2016 elections, “October is already a critical month.”
“The plebiscite would ideally have to be held earlier,” Guia said.
The Government (GPH) and Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) in their Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro had agreed that “the status quo is unacceptable” and they would work for the creation of a new autonomous political entity called the “Bangsamoro” that would replace the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM).
The ARMM is deemed abolished as soon as the Basic Law is ratified, and the Bangsamoro Transition Authority (BTA) takes over in preparation for the establishment of the regular Bangsamoro government by June 30, 2016.
The Ad Hoc Committee held its first public hearing at the House of Representatives on September 24.
The first phase of its Mindanao public hearings was in Upi, Maguindanao on October 22, Cotabato City on October 23 and in Tacurong, Koronadal and General Santos cities on October 24; the second phase in Zamboanga City on November 13 and Bongao, Tawi-tawi on November 14.
The Committee will go to Jolo, Sulu on Nov. 19, Isabela City in Basilan on Nov. 20 and Ipil in Zamboanga Sibugay on Nov. 21.
On Nov. 27, the Committee will be in Marawi City, Lanao del Sur and on the 28th will hold hearings simultaneously in Tubod, Lanao del Norte and in Iligan City. The next day, Nov. 29, the hearing will be held in Cagayan de Oro City.
In December, five more public hearings will be held in Davao City on Dec. 11, in Kidapawan and Midsayap North Cotabato on the 12th. Butuan City on the 13th and Manila on the 15th and 16th. (Carolyn O. Arguillas / MindaNews)