House launches plenary deliberations on BBL bill, hoping to complete third reading approval

Published May 29, 2018, 7:12 PM

by Roel Tibay

By Ben Rosario

With the president certifying the Bangsamoro Basic Law measure an urgent administration bill, the House of Representatives launched today plenary deliberations on the bill, hoping to complete third reading approval by Tuesday night.

The Joint Session of the Senate and the House of Representatives on the extension of Martial Law in Mindanao commences in the Plenary of the Batasang Pambansa on December 13, 2017. (ALVIN KASIBAN / MANILA BULLETIN)

House Bill 6475 or the proposed Bangsamoro Basic Law was presented replete with provisions frowned upon by a number of congressmen who noted, among others, the constitutional infirmities in them.

House Majority Leader and Ilocos Norte Rep. Rodolfo Fariñas said the objectionable portions will be addressed when the Senate and Lower House versions of the measure are taken up in the bicameral conference committee.

The bicameral panel will meet and reach a consolidated bill during the break and will present it for ratification during the morning session of Congress on July 23.

Presidential approval is expected when President Duterte delivers his third State of the Nation Address in the afternoon of July 23.

As agreed upon during an urgent meeting of Congress leaders with Duterte, the bill, backed with the presidential certification of urgency, will be passed on second and third reading before the legislative body adjourns sine die tomorrow.

“Congress will resolve them in its bicam conference committee in collaboration with the Executive Department and the Bangsamoro Transition Commission. If we won’t resolve them, we won’t have a bill for the President to consider,” Fariñas stated.

Before launching plenary deliberations, House leaders and BTC officials met in an attempt to find a middle ground that would address serious objections over certain provisions of the bill.

Fariñas said Duterte has also rejected the grant of independent military and police forces to the new local government that will take the place of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao.

“In fairness to the BTC, they agreed that such will just be a reserved power,” the House officials stated.

However, the opt-in provision that would allow the BBL to expand its jurisdiction through plebiscites will be resolved during the bicameral panel sessions that will be attended by representatives of the BTC and the executive department.

“We offered one (plebiscie) for the next ten years which they accepted. But for some of the (House) members, especially those near the proposed autonomouos region of Bangsamoro, are apprehensive about the creeping expansion of the proposed region,” Fariñas explained.

According to Fariñas, one more possible option is to grant expansion of BBL territory if a law is passed by Congress for such move.

The House official said the BTC agreed not to touch the constitutional bodies such as the Commission on Elections and the Commission on Audit.

Reacting to the second attempt by Congress to pass a BBL, Anak Mindanao Rep. Amihilda Sangcopan said the bill presents the future of peace in Mindanao as it “gives us the tools to build and sustain the peace we all pray for.”

“The Bangsamoro people have done their part, and have waited long enough for this groundbreaking piece of legislation, but we cannot do this on our own. We need you to stand up for us and to stand with us as we pass the BBL,” Sangcopan stressed.

In her sponsorship speech, Deputy Speaker Bai Sandra Sinsuat A. Sema cited the bill as the “epitome of real autonomy in the country,” pointing out that the proposed version contains minimal changes.

“This will be the proof that when the government negotiates with its people, it is honest, serious and committed to carry out its promises,” Sema stated.

Sema observed that the BBL measure is being discussed in Congress while Muslims are observing the Ramadan month.

“This is the month when the gates of Heaven are open and the gates of Hell are closed, and the devils are chained up in Hell. This month is not a coincidence that we are deliberating this legislative measure with a hallmark for peace,” she said.