Speaker: BBL okay reset to mid-June

The House of Representatives on Saturday set a new deadline for the passage of the controversial Bangsamoro Basic Law which deliberations in Congress had been suspended in the light of the January 25 Mamasapano incident.

Belmonte Jr.
Speaker Feliciano Belmonte, Jr. said the Lower House would exert effort to meet the June 11, 2015 deadline for the passage of the measure.

“We will extend the life of the ad-hoc panel so that it can continue hearing the BBL,” said Belmonte, who earlier admitted that the support in Congress to the BBL had not been as solid after the botched Mamasapano operation which left 44 police commandos dead.

Belmonte also admitted he was not sure if the BBL would still get enough numbers in the Lower House in the wake of the Mamasapano incident.

“This is not a good time to bring it out there. That committee is composed virtually of congressmen from Mindanao and given the atmosphere, the incident, I don’t think they are all very enthusiastic to be very supportive at this stage,’’ Belmonte had said.

“Until we know the circumstances it’s still your call. I will not hold you to your deadline. This is not the best time (you don’t have the numbers),” Belmonte added.

But he was quick to say the consultations on the BBL being conducted by the House ad hoc committee chair, Cagayan de Oro Rep. Rufus Rodriguez, would continue.

“They can continue to consult among themselves. I’m hopeful we will be able to do it eventually. I’m not hopeful it can be done,” Belmonte said.

House Deputy Speaker and Isabela Rep. Giorgidi Aggabao and 1-BAP party-list Rep. Silvestre Bello III said the BBL as it is drafted and presented to Congress by the government peace panel would not pass because of legal infirmities.

“The BBL as it is has so many deficiencies,” Aggabao said, noting that Congress has to work hard to correct those provisions that are found to be ‘unconstitutional’ for it to become a law.

Aggabao also agreed that the real of the BBL’s constitutionality would be the Supreme Court, and the Filipino people.

Bello, a member of the House minority bloc and former peace negotiator, said:  “the BBL with revisions to meet the test of constitutionality and acceptability will get the approval of Congress.”

But despite these developments, government chief peace negotiator Miriam Coronel-Ferrer said she still “sees positive signs”  for Congress to pass the bill.

“BBL is not down and still kicking,” Ferrer said during a press briefing.

She said the government will continue to pursue a peaceful and lasting solution to the decades-old armed conflict in southern Philippines.

Ferrer admitted that the timetable for Congress to pass the BBL by next month will not happen but expressed hopes the legislative body will act on it before it adjourns.

With regards to building up the case against those involved in the attack, Ferrer said the Department of Justice is in charge in building up the case and the gathering of evidence.

At the same time, Ferrer and Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process Teresita “Ding” Deles said they expect the MILF to sanction their men involved in the ambush according to their rules. PNA

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