On Duterte’s ‘I might resign’ if BBL is not passed before end of May: can Congress pass it in eight session days?

DAVAO CITY (MindaNews / 28 April) — President Rodrigo Duterte on Wednesday said he might resign if the Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) is not passed before end of May as he promised, and as Congress leaders had earlier promised him and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF).

“Ako, nangangako ako na before May, lulusot ‘yan …. before the end of May, lulusot na ‘yan. Pag hindi, baka mag-resign ako pagka–Presidente. Inyo na lang ‘yan hindi ko talaga kaya. (I promise it will be passed before May … before end of May, it will be passed. If not, I might resign as President. It’s all yours, I can’t do it), Duterte said at the launching of the Maguindanao Balik Baril Program in Buluan, Maguindanao.

“Wala ring silbi eh. Kung bigyan mo lang naman ako ganitong administrasyon (It’s useless. If you give me this kind of administration) until the end of my term, frankly, I would rather resign. Napapagod na ako (I am gettng tired) to solve the problem.”

President Rodrigo Roa Duterte, in his speech during the Maguindanao Balik-Baril Program launching at the Buluan Municipal Gymnasium in Maguindanao on April 25, 2018, says he might resign if the Bangsamoro Basic Law is not passed before end of May. RENE LUMAWAG/PRESIDENTIAL PHOTO

Senate President Aquilino Pimentel III and House Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez, Jr., had assured the President and the leadership of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) during a meeting in Malacanang on April 4 that the BBL would be passed by May 2018.

But with only eight session days from May 15 until the adjournment sine die on June 1, can both houses pass the law?

MindaNews asked Pimentel and Alvarez Wednesday night on their reactions to the President’s pronouncement earlier that afternoon and if they can pass the Bangsamoro law given the constraints of only eight session days to deliberate on it and other priority bills.

Alvarez exuded confidence the House of Representatives (HOR) will meet the deadline. “I can pass it in the HOR,” he said in a text message to MindaNews Thursday morning. Pimentel has yet to send his reply.

Senate ahead

Of the two houses of Congress, however, it is the Senate that has moved ahead in the deliberations as the Committee on Local Government had filed its substitute bill last month and had in fact started interpellation before Congress adjourned on March 21 for a recess until May 14.  It will resume interpellation when it resumes sessions on May 15.

In the House of Representatives, the Joint Committees on Local Government, on April 16 voted to adopt the omnibus motion filed by Maguindanao Representative and Deputy Speaker for Mindanao Bai Sandra Sema, to “retain as is” House Bill 6475, the bill drafted by the Bangsamoro Transition Commission (BTC) and sponsored by Alvarez and some 90 other representatives.

The approval effectively disregarded the working draft which was a consolidation of the four Bangsamoro bills filed in the House, including HB 6475 which Sema said will now go direct to the plenary.

Of the four bills that had earlier been consolidated — HB 0092 by Sema, 6121 by Pampanga Rep. and former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, 6263 by Lanao del Norte Rep. Mohamad Khalid Dimaporo, and the BTC-drafted, Alvarez-and-company sponsored 6475 — only the three bills have been posted in the HOR’s website. HB 6475, supposedly filed late September 2017, has not been posted as of April 27 but copies of HB 6474 and HB 6476 are available online.

Where is House Bill 6475, the Bangsamoro Transition Commission-drafted Bangsamoro Basic Law? It hasn’t been posted on the website of the House of Representatives since its supposed filing in late September 2017. As of April 28, the bill has not been posted.

Zamboanga City Rep. Celso Lobregat last week warned that instead of hastening the passage of the BBL, going back to the BTC-drafted BBL as basis for the plenary’s deliberations when sessions resume on May 15 means “we’re back to zero.”

The Joint Committees on Local Government, Muslim Affairs, and Peace, Reconciliation and Unity, were supposed to have met for four days — April 16, 17, 18 and 19 — to vote on 362 proposed amendments to the working draft but the meeting was cut short on April 16 when the committees on Muslim Affairs and Peace, Reconciliation and Unity voted for Sema’s omnibus motion.

The Committee on Local Government, voted 9-1 against Sema’s motion.  But the motion was carried as two out of three committees voted for it through hands raising. For Sema’s motion, the Committee on Muslim Affairs voted 5-3 and the Peace Committee 6-4.

Lobregat is a member of the committees on Local Government and Peace.

Sema refuted Lobregat’s claim of going “back to zero.”

“It is not sane to amend all the provisions of the BBL. It is not back to zero. It is where it should be. Two months of hearings and consultations can’t equal almost 20 years of struggle and efforts to pass a law acceptable to the parties that enter into the peace table,” she told MindaNews on April 21. “We just saved it from dilution,” she stressed.

The Joint Committees have yet to hand over their report to the plenary.

‘Voice of the Moro’

It is not clear why Duterte likened the BBL to political parties. “Itong BBL, hindi naman sinosolo ang Moroland. Parang Liberal Party o National (he likely meant Nacionalista) party, magdadala lang ng boses ng Moro para mapakinggan at maayos natin.”  (This BBL, it’s not claiming the Moroland exclusively). It’s like Liberal or National party, it will just be the voice of the Moro so they will be heard and we can address the problem).

Under the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro (CAB) that government and the MILF signed on March 27, 2014, the BBL, when ratified, will pave the way for the creation of a new autonomous political entity – the Bangsamoro – that will replace the 28-year old Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM).

The Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) led by Al Haj Murad Ebrahim meets with President Rodrigo Duterte, and Congress leaders – Senate President Aqullino Pimentel and House Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez, Jr. – in Malacanang on Wednesday, 04 April 2018. Pimentel and Alvarez assured the President and the MILF that the Bangsamoro Basic Law will be passed by May 2018. Ace Morandante/PRESIDENTIAL PHOTO

Once ratified, the five-province, two-city ARMM, the core of the proposed Bangsamoro, is deemed abolished and the Bangsamoro Transition Authority (BTA) appointed by the President takes over until the election of the first set of officials.

“I am willing na ‘pag transition o wala pa, I will declare the whole of Mindanao a land reform area. Lahat ibigay ko, pati ‘yung lupa ng gobyerno. ‘Yung bukid mataniman mo ng rubber, mataniman mo ng palm oil. Ibigay ko…” (I will give everything, including government lands. You can plant rubber in the mountains, (oil palm). I will give it…,” Duterte said.

Mindanao has 27 provinces and 33 cities.

In the latter part of his speech, he reiterated he will “proclaim he entire Mindanao, almost, as a land reform area … I will give the lands away,” the President said.

Bayan Muna partylist Rep. Carlos Isagani Zarate told MindaNews: “if he is serious, he should certify as urgent  HB 555 or the Genuine Agrarian Reform Bill” or GARB that is still pending in the Committee on Agrarian Reform.

“How can government place more lands in Mindanao under land reform when there is no enabling law as the CARP/CARPER (Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program / Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program Extension with Reforms).

CARPER expired on June 30, 2014.  (Carolyn O. Arguillas / MindaNews)