Plenary debate on Bangsamoro law begins June 1

QUEZON CITY (MindaNews/24 May) — Debates on the proposed Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) or what the Ad Hoc Committee on the Bangsamoro Basic Law (AHCBBL) has renamed as the Basic Law of the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region, will begin on June 1 and Cagayan de Oro Rep. Rufus Rodriguez, AHCBBL chair, remains confident the law will be passed before they adjourn sine die on June 11.

Rodriguez said he will deliver his sponsorship speech on Wednesday, May 27 and debates will be held on June 1 to 3 and 8 to 10.

Earlier, he said, they were willing to hold sessions from morning until midnight, including Thursdays if necessary.

The AHCBBL on May 20 approved by a vote of 50 in favor, 17 against and one abstention, the substitute bill to HB 4994. The bill has been forwarded to the Committees on Ways and Means, and Appropriations, he said.

Rodriguez told MindaNews they expect the President to certify the bill as urgent.

The Framework Agreement on the Bangsamoro (FAB) of the government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) provides that the draft BBL submitted by the Bangsamoro Transition Commission (BTC) to Congress, “shall be certified as an urgent bill by the President.”

Although the President has repeatedly verbally urged Congress to pass the proposed law immediately to give more time for the transition period, no written certification has been transmitted to the House of Representatives and the Senate.

“I think he wants to take a look at it first before he does. As of now, wala pa,” Speaker Feliciano Belmonte told MindaNews on May 4.

At the Senate, Senator Ferdinand Marcos, chair of the Committee on Local Governments, reiterated he will not be pressured into beating a June 11 deadline.

He called on his colleagues to “be brave enough to do what is right and stand against political pressure” in deciding on the fate of the BBL.

A press release posted on his website said Marcos lamented that the process in the House of Representatives’ AHCBBL was “tainted with politics.”.

“Medyo nakakalungkot ‘yung nangyari sa House of Representatives… dinaan sa pulitika ang BBL,” the press release quoted Marcos as saying in a DZBB interview.

Marcos said the House Committee should have realized that the issue was peace and the lives of the people and not “political expediency.”

Marcos’ committee is still conducting public hearings.

At the public hearing on Monday, May 25, the Committee will listen to representatives of the Sultanate of Sulu and Indigenous Peoples and on June 3, will have the final hearing, with officials in the local government units in the proposed core territory and neighboring areas.

The 15-member BTC, composed of eight commissioners from the MILF and seven from the government, drafted the BBL and submitted it to Congress on September 10 last year.

Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process Teresita Quintos-Deles and BTC chair Mohagher Iqbal, also the MILF peace panel chair, handed a copy each of the draft BBL to Senate President Franklin Drilon and House Speaker Feliciano Belmonte, Jr., in the presence of President Aquino in ceremonies held in Malacanang on September 10, 2014.

In his 10-minute speech after the handover, President Aquino assured that the draft BBL was crafted to be “makatwiran, makatarungan, at katanggap-tanggap sa lahat, Moro man, Lumad, o Kristiyano” (fair, just, and acceptable to all, whether they are Moros, Lumads, or Christians).

He urged Congress to examine the draft bill and asked that it be passed “sa lalong madaling panahon” (as soon as possible).

The draft BBL was entered as HB 4994 and SB 2408. (Carolyn O. Arguillas / MindaNew)