DAVAO CITY (MindaNews / 23 August) – Only 15 session days are left to tackle the proposed Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) until the national budget deliberations go to the plenary on September 28 but despite problems of quorum in the last three weeks, the chair of the Ad Hoc Committee on the BBL is confident “we still have time to finish the bill by September 15.”
“There will be quorum tomorrow (Monday) up to Wednesday. We will have interpellations,” Cagayan de Oro Rep. Rufus Rodriguez, committee chair, told MindaNews in a text message Sunday morning.
The period of interpellation on House Bill 5811, the substitute bill filed by Rodriguez’ committee, started June 2 and was suspended on June 10 when Congress adjourned sine die. At that time, only eight of the 38 who had signed up, completed their interpellation.
Interpellations were supposed to have resumed on August 4 but no quorum was mustered on August 4 and 5.
There was also no quorum, on August 10 and 11. On August 12, only two representatives managed to interpellate: Anakpawis Rep. Fernando Hicap and Coop-Natco party list Rep. Crescente Paez. Muntinlupa Rep. Rodolfo Biazon started his interpellation and will continue when sessions resume.
Aside from Biazon, Zamboanga City Rep. Celso Lobregat of Zamboanga City, has yet to complete his interpellation. But Lobregat told MindaNews last month that he would let the other representatives interpellate first.
No interpellation was done on the third week – August 17, 18 and 19 – again because of quorum problems.
At the Senate, the period of interpellation on SB 2894, the substitute bill, was supposed to have started on August 17 but senators asked for another week to study the bill. Interpellations will begin Monday, August 24.
On August 16, Rodriguez told the Manila-based radio station DZBB that he hopes his colleagues would be present on August 17 “until we finish this bill for the second and third reading in the middle of September” because according to the calendar of the Committee on Rules, the 2016 budget will be debated in the plenary by September 28.
“There will be no more debates (on) BBL, so therefore the real deadline (for the passage of the BBL) is on or before Sept. 28. Dapat tapos na sa (this should be finished in the) House,” Rodriguez said.
On recess by October
Rodriguez told MindaNews on August 16 hat there were “only 16 representatives left to interpellate,” as some of those who signed up had backed out. He said the 16 includes Zamboanga City Rep. Celso Lobregat and Biazon, who have yet to complete their interpellations.
No interpellation was done on August 16, 17 and 18, again due to quorum problems.
MindaNews counted only 11 session days from Mondays to Wednesdays between August 23 and September 15, a Tuesday.
The period of interpellation is followed by the period of amendments. The House then votes on the measure, transmits it to the Senate, Senate acts on the approved bill of the House and this is followed by a Conference Committee. The bill is then transmitted to the President who will either approve or veto the bill.
HB 5811 has not been certified urgent by President Aquino.
Congress goes on recess from October 10 to November 2.
Within the recess is the filing of certificates of candidacy on October 12 to 16, by those who are running for elective posts in the synchronized elections of May 9, 2016.
If no BBL is passed before Congress goes on recess, elections in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM), the regional body that would be abolished once the Bangsamoro Transition Authority takes over after the ratification of the BBL, will proceed as scheduled in 2016.
Both substitute bills — in the House and the Senate – are being criticized for paving the way for a Bangsamoro that will be “less than the ARMM that it seeks to replace.”
The Aquino administration bows out of office on June 30, 2016, supposedly the inauguration of the Bangsamoro, the new autonomous political entity that would replace the ARMM, according to the government and MILF’s peace roadmap.
The draft BBl was submitted to Congress by the Bangsamoro Transition Commission (BTC) in ceremonial rites held in Malacanang on September 10, 2014. It became HB 4994 in the House and SB 2408 in the Senate. These were replaced by substitute bills HB 5811 and SB 2894.
The BTC, a joint government-Moro Islamic Liberation Front (GHP-MILF) body tasked by the October 15, 2012 GPH-MILF Framework Agreement on the Bangsamoro to draft the BBL, had rejected HB 5811 in a July 29 resolution urging Congress to pass the BBL “in its original form.”
The BTC “strongly expresses its support to the passage of the BBL in its original form (HB 4994), as the provisions of the same are consistent with the letter and spirit of the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro and the peace talks.”
The resolution also said it “stands firm” that HB 4994 “is the most appropriate version based on the FAB and CAB and considering that it is the one that underwent the legitimate process of consultation with the people and engagement with the Office of the President.”
The BTC also “implores the better judgment of the leadership of both Houses of Congress to pass the BBL in its original form and to henceforth act according to the terms of the peace agreements.”
Copies of the two-page resolution were submitted to the Senate President and House Speaker, along with a three-page list of 28 substantial issues that the BTC said “are contrary to the Framework Agreement on the Bangsamoro and the Comprehehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro.”
Rodriguez told radio station DZBB on August 16 that the Ad Hoc Committee “had 51 hearings on these particular measure until the time that we approved it (on May 20)… All of these have been fully discussed over and over again.”
Rodriguez added that it it has been the consensus of majority of the Committee that the provisions in the draft BBL that they deleted and where they introduced amendatory language … “are really very important and very, very necessary to make the bill be constitutionally compliant. In other words, kung maiwan itong mga probisyon or kung maibalik natin yong kanilang 28 points, we believe that may not be able to pass the Supreme Court’s constitutional scrutiny.”
“The House of Representatives wants to help craft a bill that will be successful not only in being passed in the House and Senate but also in the Supreme Court,” he explained.
Rodriguez said they may not be able to heed the BTC’s call be for two reasons:. “we impressed on them that if we lose those (representatives) who supported us then, we will have a more difficult chance in the plenary… I hope the MILF will see that what we have done is for the best interest of the Bangsamoro and also for Congress,” Rodriguez said. (Carolyn O. Arguillas / MindaNews)