By Nat Mariano
THE Bangsamoro Organic Law, which seeks to create a Bangsamoro entity to help attain lasting peace in Mindanao, will be signed by President Rodrigo Duterte before he delivers his third State of the Nation Address today, the Palace said Sunday.
“We consider this landmark measure as instrumental to our peace and security efforts in Mindanao,” said Presidential Spokesman Harry Roque.
“We acknowledge the hard work of Congress and the Bangsamoro Transition Commission that brought us this historic law, which would not only forge lasting peace in Mindanao but would also provide the much-needed economic development on the island,” he added.
On Wednesday night, the congressional bicameral conference committee on BOL, chaired by Senator Miguel Zubiri, adopted a consolidated version of the measure that will create the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region, replacing the current Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao.
Senate President Vicente Sotto III said that the BOL would empower the region and the people living in it, and would be a good test case for a federal system of government.
He added that once the law is implemented, the decommissioning of firearms in the possession of Muslim rebel groups could be completed.
Both the Senate and the House of Representatives are expected to ratify the measure upon the opening of the Third Regular Session on Monday morning, July 23.
House leaders said they were batting for a swift approval of the BOL, as well as the P3.76-trillion national budget for 2019.
Davao City Rep. Karlo Alexei Nograles said his panel would immediately start hearings on the general appropriations bill, which the President is likely to submit to Congress during his Sona.
The lion’s share of the 2019 national budget will go to education (P659.3 billion which is P72.2 billion more than the 2018 budget of P587.1 billion).
The Department of Public Works and Highways will get second highest allocation of P555.7 billion.
Southern Leyte Rep. Roger Mercado, House committee on constitutional amendments chairperson, said the passage of the draft federal constitution submitted by the consultative committee, led by its chairman Reynato Puno, will also be a priority.
“In fact we will begin immediately the series of hearings this week,” he said.
The Senate is also expected to act on the bicameral conference committee report on the Bangsamoro Organic Law, which was approved July 18, when it resume its sessions for the 3rd Regular Session of the 17th Congress on Monday.
Sotto said that senators will hold a caucus on Tuesday, a day after the Sona, to determine the “common priority legislative agenda” the Senate will tackle in the coming months.
He each senator had been asked to submit their list of priority bills for consideration of the whole body.
The senators would then compare their list of common priority measures to that of the House of Representatives and the executive branch.
“This [coming out with an agenda] is imperative now because we only have very few months for the 3rd regular session,” he said.
He added they will work until Dec. 21 unlike in the previous years when they only worked until Dec. 15 because when they resume after the Christmas break in January, they will only be convening for two weeks because of the start of the campaign period.
Sotto said the Senate and House will meet after Sona to fix the legislative calendar and the priority measures.
He also said that during the caucus, senators will discuss the Con-Com’s draft federal constitution.
After the opening ceremonies at the Senate plenary hall on Monday morning, the senators will proceed to the Batasang Pambansa Complex in the afternoon to attend the joint session of Congress and hear the president’s third Sona.
The Senate will go back to its legislative work while enjoying the highest public approval and trust ratings among key government agencies, according to a recent Pulse Asia poll.
The survey conducted last June said the Senate received a 69-percent approval rating and 61-percent trust rating by Filipinos throughout the country.