28 legislators to craft final Bangsamoro law: 14 from Mindanao, 7 of them Moro

DAVAO CITY (MindaNews / 02 June) — Twenty-eight legislators will form the Bicameral Conference Committee that will craft the final version of the Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL), half of them from Mindanao, among them seven Moro representatives.

The Bicameral Conference Committee is tasked to reconcile the versions passed by the House of Representatives on Wednesday and by the Senate on Thursday

According to the legislative process posted on the website of the House of Representatives, the task of the Bicameral Conference Committee is to “settle, reconcile or thresh out differences or disagreements on any provision of the bill.”

The Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) which signed the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro in March 2014 that provides for the passage of a Bangsamoro Basic Law, has, through its chair Al Haj Murad Ebrahim, acknowledged several substantive provisions have been deleted or amended in the BBL versions and is hoping the Bicameral Conference Committee (bicam) could “correct” these.

“The struggle is not yet over. We are still hoping to correct those substantial issues either amended or deleted by both houses. We are still hoping improvements could still be done during the bicam (Bicameral Conference Committee deliberations),” Murad told MindaNews on Thursday.

A major question that has been repeatedly asked is: can the provisions deleted or amended be restored at the bicam when they are no longer part of the text of the versions to be deliberated on?  Also, a number of those who pushed for their deletion and amendment are members of the bicameral committee.

President Rodrigo Duterte will deliver his third State of the Nation Address on July 23, 2018 at the House of Representatives, the same day he is expected to sign into law the final version of the Bangsamoro Basic Law. Photo courtesy of www.congress.gov.ph

The House contingent has 18 members while the Senate has 10. The members are called “conferees.”

House Majority Leader Rodolfo Farinas (Ilocos Norte, 1st district) heads the 18-member House contingent, 12 of them Mindanawons while the 10-member Senate contingent has two Mindanawons —  Senate Majority Leader Juan Miguel Zubiri of Bukidnon, principal sponsor of SB 1717 and head of the contingent to the Bicam; and the former Senate President Aquilino Pimentel III.

The members of the House contingent are Farinas, Deputy Speaker for Mindanao Bai Sandra Sema (Maguindanao, 1st), and the chairs of the committees that tackled the BBL:  Pedro Acharon (South Cotabato, 1st) of the Committee on Local Government;  Mauyag Papandayan, Jr. (Lanao del Sur, 2nd) of the Committee on Muslim Affairs; and Rep. Ruby Sahali (Tawi-tawi) of the Peace, Reconciliation and Unity.

The other members are Representatives Amhilda Sangcopan (AMIN); Wilter Palma II (Zamboanga Sibugay,1st);  Celso Lobregat (Zamboanga City, 1st) ;  Mohamad Khalid Dimaporo (Lanao del Norte, 1st) and his father, Abdullah Dimaporo (Lanao del Norte, 2nd); Seth Frederick Jalosjos (Zamboanga del Norte, 1st); Sherenee Abubakar Tan (Kusug Tausug); Johnny Pimentel (Surigao del Sur, 2nd).

Of the 12 Mindanawon conferees from the House, 10 voted yes to passing the BBL while two abstained (Abdullah Dimaporo and Lobregat). Under House rules, those who vote no cannot be a member of the bicam.

Members from outside Mindanao, aside from Farinas, are Rodolfo Albano (Isabela Ist), Romeo Acop (Antipolo, 2nd); Juan Pablo Bondoc (Pampanga, 4th), Arthur Defensor (Iloilo, 3rd), and Eugene Michael de Vera (ABS party-list),

The members of the Senate contingent aside from Zubiri and Pimentel are Senators Juan Edgardo Angara, Aquilino Pimentel III, Sherwin Gatchalian, Joel Villanueva, Francis Escudero, Franklin Drilon, Risa Hontiveros, Loren Legarda and Francis Pangilinan.

According to the House website, the bicam conferees are “not limited to reconciling the differences in the bill but may introduce new provisions germane to the subject matter or may report out an entirely new bill on the subject.”

According to the Senate website, the authority given to the Senate conferees “theoretically is limited to matters in disagreement between the two chambers” and its representatives are “not authorized to delete provisions or language agreed to by both the House and the Senate as to draft entirely new provisions.”

“In practice, however, the conferees have wide latitude, except where the matters in disagreement are very specific. Moreover, conferees attempt to reconcile their differences, but generally they try to grant concession only insofar as they remain confident that the chamber they represent will accept the compromise,” it said.

When the conferees from both chambers have reached agreement on a bill, the conference committee staff writes the report indicating changes made in the bill and  the explanation behind each side’s action, and submits it to for approval to the two houses.

The Senate and House leaders had earlier said they expect to approve the report when sessions resume morning of July 23, and submit the final BBL to President Rodrigo Duterte for signing on the same day he delivers his third State of the Nation Address.  (Carolyn O. Arguillas / MindaNews)