Panel to approve amended BBL in May

THE 75-man ad hoc committee will pass the proposed Bangsamoro Basic Law in a revised and amended form in May, a House official said Friday.

Cagayan de Oro Rep. Rufus Rodriguez, the head of the ad hoc panel tasked to scrutinize the BBL, expressed confidence it will be passed in the House.

“We will conduct the voting on the measure by May 11 and 12,” Rodriguez said. 

“We will convince our colleagues that we have to give peace a chance, and that’s only one chance we have now [to pass this bill that] will end the fighting in Mindanao.”

Rodriguez said the House in plenary was eying the passage of the BBL during the first week of June. He said both the House and the Senate were expected to have the BBL approved in a bicameral conference committee meeting and then passed before Congress adjourns sine die on June 11.

The House ad hoc committee tasked to scrutinize the BBL will resume its discussions on the measure from April 20 to 30.  Its deliberation on the bill was suspended after the Mamasapano incident took place on Jan. 25.

Rodriguez’s panel had earlier taken out several unconstitutional provisions in the BBL, a measure that seeks to create a new Bangsamoro juridical entity replacing the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao that President Aquino III has described as a failed experiment.

Rodriguez had acknowledged as problematic the provisions allowing other areas outside the Bangsamoro territory to also join the entity upon a petition of at least 10 percent of the constituents, the creation of its own internal audit body despite the presence of the Commission on Audit, the disciplining of public officials and employees or a power to be taken away from the Office of the Ombudsman, the establishment of a civil service, a human rights body, and allowing Bangsamoro to run its elections.

Rodriguez said those provisions in the BBL that constitutionalists and legal experts had also found unconstitutional would be removed from the measure once it was put to a vote in May.

“We will convince our colleagues that the unconstitutional provisions are removed so that the [BBL] is compliant with the Constitution,” Rodriguez said.

Even House Speaker Feliciano Belmonte Jr. supported the passage of the BBL but not the so-called “Palace-MILF” version of the measure.

“I don’t think it will pass,” Belmonte said, referring to the BBL as proposed by Malacañang and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front.

Davao City Rep. Karlo Nograles, a House deputy majority leader, also rallied behind the government’s quest for peace in Mindanao.

“All of us want a law, a Bangsamoro law that we imagine will usher in a new era of peace for Mindanao,” Nograles said. 

 “So there is really no one blocking the passage of such law.  No one, except that we have our different concerns with the present version of the proposed law.”

Zamboanga City Rep. Celso Lobregat said he also supports the peace initiative of the government, but the issue on the decommissioning of the MILF forces should be properly addressed.

He said the said issue should be included in the law.  

 “I will reiterate: we are for peace, we are not anti-peace, but we want the BBL to be fair, just, acceptable, feasible and, more importantly, consistent with the Constitution and the law,” Lobregat said.

Even a non-member of the ad hoc committee, Pangasinan Rep. Kimi Cojuangco, said the unconstitutional provisions in the BBL “must go.”               

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