New target for passing Bangsamoro law: March 2018  

DAVAO CITY (MindaNews / 25 November) — With only nine session days left from November 27 until the two houses of Congress go on recess on December 16, no Bangsamoro law will be passed by yearend as originally envisioned by the Duterte administration’s Bangsamoro Peace and Development Roadmap approved in July 2016.

The new target for passing the law is March 2018, Lanao del Sur Rep. Mauyag Papandayan, Jr., chair of the Committee on Muslim Affairs said. Papandayan told MindaNews committee hearings will start first week of December. Congress goes on recess from December 16 to January 14.

He said public hearings will be done when Congress resumes in January followed by committee deliberations then plenary session and “hopefully by March tapos na” (it’s done).

Congress resumes session on January 15 and will have 39 Monday to Wednesday session days until it adjourns sine die on June 2: 30 session days from January 15 to March 23; break from Mach 24 to May 13 and nine session days from May 14 to June 1.

President Rodrigo Roa Duterte receives a copy of the proposed Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) from Bangsamoro Transition Commission (BTC) chair Ghazali Jaafar in a turnover ceremony at the Rizal Hall in Malacañan Palace on July 17, 2017. Also in the photo are (from left) Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) Peace Implementing Panel chair Mohagher Iqbal, MILF Chairman Murad Ebrahim, Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdea, Senate President Aquilino Pimentel III, House Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez, Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process Jesus Dureza and Government of the Philippines Implementing Peace Panel Chair Irene Santiago. King Rodriguez/PRESIDENTIAL PHOTO

Three committees — Muslim Affairs under Papandayan;  Peace, Reconciliation and Unity under Tawi-tawi Rep. Ruby Sahali and Local Government under South Cotabato Rep. Pedro Acharon —  are jointly handling four bills on the proposed Bangsamoro law; House Bill 092 filed on June 30, 2016 by Maguindanao Rep. Bai Sandra Sema, Deputy Speaker for Mindanao; HB 6121 filed by Pampanga Rep. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo on August 3, 2017; HB 6263 filed by Lanao del Norte Rep. Mohamad Khalid Dimaporo on August 24 and and  HB 6475 or the BBL version submitted by the Bangsamoro Transition Commission (BTC) and filed by House Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez, Jr. and 97 other Representatives reportedly on September 27. The first three bills are posted on the House website, the bills signed by the authors and stamped received. HB 6475 has not been posted on the website.

All bills related to the proposed Bangsamoro law are to be consolidated first.  

At the Senate, Senate President Aquilino Pimentel III filed SB 1608 or the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region Basic Law (BARBL) on November 6, 2017.

Pimentel told MindaNews the Committee on Local Government headed by Senator Juan Edgardo “Sonny” Angara “has vowed to hear BBL immediately after tax reform. Will ask him what the feasible timetable is.”

Approved in July 2016, the Bangsamoro  Peace and Development Program of the Duterte administration envisioned the passage of the BBL before yearend 2017 as the Commission on Elections would need six months to prepare for the plebiscite in the proposed Bangsamoro core areas, including the five-province, two-city Autonomous Reigon in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) to ratify the basic law — or by mid-2018 — and allow for a transition period.

Under the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro (CAB) that the government and Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) signed on March 27, 2014, the ARMM is deemed abolished “upon promulgation and ratification of hte Bsaic Law” and the Bangsamoro Transition Authority whose members will be appointed by the President, will take over until the election of the first set of officials of the Bangsamoro.

The peace agreement provides that a “ministerial form and Cabinet system of government shall commence once the Bangsamoro Transition Authority is in place” and the BTA “may reorganize the bureaucracy into institutions of governance appropriate thereto.”

The next ARMM election is on May 13, 2019.  

The BTC has called for a Bangsamoro Assembly on November 26 to 27 at the Old Provincial Capitol Compound in Crossing Simuay, Sultan Kudarat, Maguindanao. November 26 is for arrival of delegates and the “program proper will be on November 27,” said BTC chair Ghazali Jaafar, concurrent 1st Vice Chair of the MILF.  

Executive Order no. 8 which created the BTC on November 7, 2016, mandates the BTC to “convene an inclusive Bangsamoro Assembly as a consultative body to discuss the proposed Bangsamoro Basic Law.” 

“We are encouraging the Bangsamoros, indigenous peoples and Christian settlers to attend this historic event that would mark our common aspiration to have genuine peace in our homeland,” Jaafar said.

President Duterte will speak at the Assembly on November 27.  The Assembly was actually set for an earlier date but was postponed because the President was busy preparing for the ASEAN Summit.

The BTC submitted its draft BBL to President Duterte in the presence of Pimentel and House Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez, Jr. on July 17 this year. But it took a month for the Office of the President to transmit the draft to the two houses of Congress. (Carolyn O. Arguillas / MindaNews)