Lawmakers buck summit tack

LAWMAKERS continued to assail the Palace proposal to form a panel to review the controversial Bangsamoro Basic Law even as Malacañang argued that President Benigno Aquino III’s proposal was not meant to usurp the power of Congress to consider and enact laws.

Cagayan de Oro Rep. Rufus Rodriguez, chairman of the 75-man House panel reviewing the BBL, reiterated that the House will pass the BBL based on “plenary powers of Congress in accordance with the collective wisdom of all its members.”

He said the government cannot force congressmen to accept their proposal and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front cannot make demands on what version of the BBL it should approve because the proposed measure is replete with unconstitutional provisions in the first place.

“We cannot swallow hook, line and sinker here,” Rodriguez said stressing that the House will stand by its position to remove unconstitutional provisions in the BBL, including the creation of its own internal “Commission on Audit”; disciplining public officials like the Ombudsman, establishment of another civil service, and human rights body, and creation of the Bangsamoro police force.

Rodriguez also said the MILF cannot demand from Congress anything in so far as the BBL is concerned.

Zamboanga Rep. Celso Lobregat, a member of the ad hoc panel, said the review being proposed by the Palace was a tacit admission that they submitted a faulty bill and the opinions of “citizen leaders” will not make faulty provisions any less unconstitutional.

“Is this now an admission that there was no genuine and proper consultation done by the [Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process] and the [Government of the Philippines] panel?” Lobregat asked.

“The proposed BBL has been transmitted to Congress and both Houses are deliberating on the measure. The Catholic Church, business sector or a convenors council cannot replace Congress,” said Lobregat, vice chairman of the House committee on peace, reconciliation and unity.

“This should have been done before the signing of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CAB) last year,” he added, stressing that the Palace-proposed BBL cannot be passed in its present form.

“We need a BBL that is just, fair, acceptable, feasible and consistent with the Constitution and existing laws,” Lobregat said.

But Deputy Presidential Spokesperson Abigail Valte said Aquino’s proposal was not attempt to take over the legislative process but merely as an additional forum.

“Only Congress can pass the BBL, no summit will be able to do that,” Valte said on government-run dzRB radio.

“It’s not about replacing the legislative process, but merely, as the President said, to provide an avenue to which the BBL can be discussed in a rational and calm manner,” Valte said.

“It creates an opportunity for community leaders and well-respected personalities in society to come together to sit down and discuss the BBL, and also in their understanding to propose a way to move forward,” she added.

But Valte admitted that the so-called “national peace summit” the Palace proposed to consist of “citizen leaders” like Manila Archbishop Luis Antonio Cardinal Tagle, former Chief Justice Hilario Davide Jr., businessman Jaime Augusto Zobel de Ayala, was meant to pressure lawmakers into passing the law.

“It is up to the senator [or congressman] if he will listen to the voices of the citizen leaders who will comprise the summit,” Valte said.

“Why will it be useless to get inputs from various members of the community? This is an issue everyone needs to understand,” she said. “Congress has the power to go over (the BBL) but that does not exclude the people because Congress should be primarily listening to the people.”

On Friday, Sen. Ferdinand Marcos Jr. said Aquino’s initiative to form a citizens’ committee that will review the BBL is an attempt to rally public support for the passage of the controversial measure.

Meanwhile, Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process Teresita Quintos Deles admitted that the government was being bashed because of the BBL.

“I admit we are bruised and feeling battered but we are here to proclaim we still stand firm (in pushing the peace process),” Deles said in a speech during a book launch event in Intramuros, Manila on Friday marking the first anniversary of the signing of the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro.

“The past two months are psychologically and physically battering, but the last two weeks affirmed that the way we have responded made the process stronger,” Deles said.

“The results will be a stronger process and a stronger BBL (Bangsamoro Basic Law) with more people on board,”? she said.

The CAB was signed, she noted, after 17 years of negotiations between the government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF).

The peace adviser recounted the events and the challenges that faced both negotiating panels before they finally signed the CAB in March 27 last year.

“We have gone through a difficult process of negotiation,” Deles said, adding that the challenges disprove those who claim the peace agreement was rushed and not carefully studied by the government.

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