DAVAO CITY (MindaNews/29 August) – There are only eight session days left from Monday, August 31 until September 15, the target date for the passage of the Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) at the House of Representatives but quorum problems continue to delay the proceedings.
Cagayan de Oro Rep. Rufus Rodriguez, chair of the House of Representatives’ Ad Hoc Committee on the Bangsamoro Basic Law, and principal sponsor of HB 5811, the substitute bill to the GPH-MILF’s draft BBL, was confident on Sunday, August 23, that there would be a quorum and they would be able to pass the law by September 15.
The previous Sunday, he told radio station DZBB in Manila that HB 5811 should be passed before September 28 because by then the 2016 budget will go to the plenary for debates.
On August 23, however, he told MindaNews: “There will be quorum tomorrow (Monday) up to Wednesday. We will have interpellations. We still have time to finish the bill by September 15.”
Even Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process Teresita Quintos-Deles was confident that the quorum requirement would be met and that she expected legislative action to move rapidly in the next few weeks.”
But during the session days on August 24 to 26, only Muntinlupa Rep. Rodolfo Biazon managed to interpellate for a few minutes, as the question of quorum was again raised. The House of Representatives has 291 members. The quorum required is 146.
MindaNews asked Rodriguez and Deles on Saturday afternoon (August 29) if they were still optimistic about Rodriguez’ target date but both have not sent their replies.
Biazon told MIndaNews in a telephone interview on August 29 that he has finished only about 30% of the issues he wants Rodriguez to answer.
“I am not going to allow any vice chair of the committee (to answer me). I will require Rufus to answer,” he said.
Zamboanga City Rep. Celso Lobregat, whose interpellation was suspended on June 10 when Congress adjourned sine die, told MindaNews last month that he was still halfway in his interpellation but would give chance for the other representatives to interpellate first.
Biazon narrated that as he was interpellating on the decommissioning, Zamboanga del Sur Rep. Aurora Cerilles stood up to say “ako taga Mindanao and what Rep. Biazon is saying, everybody must listen.”
He said it was important for the issues he raised to be heard.
But there was no quorum, he said, so session was suspended.
When the period of interpellation was suspended on June 10, only eight of 38 representatives who had signed up to interpellate had finished. Lobregat did not complete his interpellation because of the adjournment sine die. The period of interpellation was supposed to have resumed on August 4 but since then, only two representatives had finished interepellation, with Biazon still unfinished.
Rodriguez two weeks ago told MindaNews only 16 representatives, including Lobregat and Biazon were still going to interpellate as the others had backed out.
BBl not passed
Biazon said he is “still on the decommissioning issue” and estimates there are still “about 20” who have yet to interpellate.
Given these realities, he said, “I do not see it will be passed within September or October.”
Congress goes on recess from October 10 to November 2.
“if the law is not passed by October, people will be filing candidacies under the ARMM (Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao) law” or RA 9054.
The filing of certificates of candidacy for those who are running for posts in the May 9, 2016 elections, is on October 12 to 16.
“I do not see the law (BBL) will be passed and because of this, the consequence is mag-e-election ang ARMM unless we provide in the law what will be done as a consequence of the law being late.”
Mary Ann Arnado of the Mindanao Pelples Caucus wants to know “why (Zamboanga City Rep. Celso) Lobregat and (Buhay partylist Rep. Lito) Atienza who are rabid anti-BBL can sustain their attendance while so-called pro-BBL, pro-peace legislators are on default due to chronic absences?”
At the Senate, the period of interpellation on the substitute bill, SB 2894, started on August 24. Thus far, only two senators – Pia Cayetano and Sonny Angara — have finished, according to Honey Rose Mercado of the office of Senator Ferdinand Marcos, chair of the Committee on Local Government.
Seventeen senators signed the Committee Report on the substitute bill. Those who signed and signified intention to “interpellate/amend” are Senators Aquilino Pimentel Jr., Antonio Trillanes, Grace Poe and Angara.
Senators Nancy Binay, Cayetano, Loren Legarda, and Joseph Victor Ejercito, signed “with reservations, will amend and interpellate,” Senators Teofisto Guingona, Ralph Recto and Paolo Benigno Aquino IV noted they “will amend.”
Senator Gregorio Honasan signed “with reservations,” Senator Cynthia Villar said “I agreed to allow this bill to go to Plenary” but added “this is not a yes to the BBL.”
Senator Vicente Sotto III signed “with reservations and amendments! agreeing to the Title! BAR Law” while Senator Alan Peter Cayetano signed and said “I vote No. Yes to strengthening the Autonomous Region that will result in a Just, inclusive, lasting Peace. To BBL in present form, No! This version has addressed many [majority of objected provisions/issues. But many more have to be addressed/amended”). Senator Manuel Lapid signed with no notation.
The substitute bills to the BBL that the House of Representatives and the Senate committees approved at the committee levels – HB 5811 and SB2894 — have been criticized for envisioning a Bangsamoro that will be “less than the ARMM” that it seeks to replace.
Bayan Muna Rep. Carlos Isagani Zarate told MindaNews “there is a need now for the MILF (Moro Islamic Liberation Front) to re-assess its position vis-a-vis pushing for the passage of a law that — as recent developments in the House and the Senate show– will not be compliant with the FAB (Framework Agreement on the Bangsamoro) and the CAB (Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro).”
“As we have warned before, the too many promises and commitments by Aquino administration just so the Front will sign an agreement, will not be honored, it will be taken back eventually through technicalities, legal gobbledygook and even sabotage, like what happened in Mamasapano.”
“It is now very clear: Capitulation and surrender are the core of the Aquino peace policy, thus, the Front and the Bangsamoro people should now start looking at a post-Aquino strategy to push the agenda of genuine self-determination,” Zarate said.
MILF chair Al Haj Murad Ebrahim had earlier told MindaNews that they are still looking forward to the commitment of President Aquino to push for the passage of a BBL that adheres to the peace agreements signed with the government (GPH) but if it is not passed within the Aquino administration, they will “continue to demand of the next administration to implement the FAB and the CAB.”
“We have to protect the peace agreement…. if all efforts will not succeed in passing it within the President’s term, then we will continue to demand of the next government to implement FAB and CAB because the final peace agreement is not subject to renegotiation,” said the 67-year old Murad, who has been chair of the MILF since founding chair Salamat Hashim passed away in July 2003. (Carolyn O. Arguillas / MindaNews)