Uncertainty of passage moves BBL vote anew

THE independent minority bloc in the House of Representatives said Tuesday House leaders might not have enough support from lawmakers to pass the Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL).

The bloc’s leader, Leyte Rep. Ferdinand Martin Romualdez, said the decision of the 75-man ad hoc panel to defer the voting on the BBL was triggered by the lack of support from House members to approve the draft bill being pushed by the administration and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF).

Forum. House Speaker Feliciano Belmonte Jr. seems to be
amused by a question from the media following the
postponement of the voting on the Bangsamoro Basic Law
during a forum in Congress on Tuesday. Lino Santos
“This development indicates that the House majority has no solid numbers to pass the BBL because even their allies believe that Congress should not hurry the approval of a very vital and important measure,” said Romualdez. “Congress should not pass the BBL under duress.”

“While we support peace with the MILF, the measure must be approved in consonance with the Constitution and existing laws. The strong clamor to deliver justice for the victims of Mamasapano clash remains and the government and the MILF must ensure that this requirement is met,” Romualdez added.

Nevertheless, Romualdez said the move of the ad hoc panel, chaired by Cagayan de Oro Rep. Rufus Rodriguez, to reset the voting next week was “a laudable act to allow members to study the proposed amendments.”

This developed as House Speaker Feliciano Belmonte, Jr. played down reports that the House leadership does not have enough number of votes to pass the BBL.

“I am certain we have the numbers. More than that, we have to polish everything,” Belmonte told reporters.

Belmonte said the House is still on the right track to pass the BBL and that the delay in the supposed voting of the BBL last Monday would not affect its timetable much.

“The timetable is somehow affected, but not that much. We just want to ensure order. Of course we have the support of majority to pass it,” Belmonte said.

The Speaker said the ad hoc panel was expected to come up with its draft report on the measure that would be voted upon by the House members.

Belmonte pointed out that the House must pass a version of the BBL “that is acceptable to most.” Otherwise, it would only be end up being questioned before the Supreme Court, Belmonte added.

House Majority Leader and Mandaluyong Rep. Rep. Neptali Gonzales II welcomed the move of the ad hoc panel to defer the voting, saying the effort was “aimed at consolidating amendments to the BBL.”

“Let us give enough time for the members to study the proposed amendments. The draft will be submitted by chairman Rodriguez and then the copy will be given to members for their consideration,” Gonzales said.

It was learned that 12 members of the panel had proposed several amendments to the BBL, including the rewording of some provisions and the deletion of a few sections.

“There are additional amendments to be given. We better reset it (voting) for the meantime to have copies of all addendum. I feel that if I will not give in to request of consolidation, we are rushing things,” said Rodriguez.

The panel members will have to choose between the proposed amendments and the original sections of the bill as contained by the original version of the bill.

During the voting, Rodriguez is expected to push for the deletion of eight provisions deemed to be unconstitutional by many lawmakers.

In the Senate, Senator Ferdinand Marcos Jr., chairman of the committee on local governments, said his panel would conduct another hearing to get the side of the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) on the proposed Bangsamoro Basic Law.

He will schedule the hearing after getting back to Manila from the two-day marathon hearings in Jolo, Sulu and Zamboanga City on May 13 and 14.

“I think it is proper to hear the MNLF side because they have signed a peace agreement with the government, the 1996 Jakarta Agreement,” Marcos said.

“I made a promise to the people of Jolo and Zamboanga that they will have a chance to air their views on the BBL and so we set these hearings to fulfill that promise,” Marcos said.

The Jolo and Zamboanga hearings will be held in the same week the special committee of the House of Representatives gears up to vote on the final version of BBL it would present to the plenary.

Malacanang has signified its desire for the BBL to be passed before Congress adjourns on June 10.

However, BBL hearings suffered a setback in both Houses of Congress after 44 police commandos were killed by Muslim rebels in Mamasapano, Maguindanao, on Jan. 25.

This early, Marcos said the Senate is not likely to heed Malacanang’s appeal for the passage of the BBL without any amendments.

He said that even the Peace Council which Malacanang constituted to review BBL pointed the need for some changes in the draft BBL.

“We will amend on the power sharing. We will amend on the administrative issues. We will amend on the economic issues. We will certainly amend on the constitutional issues,” Marcos said.

Marcos said he cannot commit to any deadline for the passage of the BBL in the Senate.

He said many of his fellow senators have earlier signified their intention to propose their own amendments to the draft BBL, which would likely result in lengthy floor debates.

“If we manage to pass it by June 10, then well and good. But what is more important is that we pass a version of the BBL that we believe will really work to achieve its avowed goal, and that is to bring peace and prosperity to Muslim Mindanao,” Marcos said.

The Palace on Tuesday said it is giving Congress a free hand in its deliberations on the BBL.

“Let us wait for the decision of the ad hoc committee in Congress regarding amendments being made on the draft BBL. We recognize and respect that Congress has their own process as a separate and co-equal branch of government,” said Communications Secretary Herminio Coloma Jr.

Coloma said there would be no effort on the part of the administration to consolidate its allies to have them vote “yes” to the BBL.

“The aim of the government is to have the Bangsamoro Basic Law passed by Congress, which would promote the objectives of the peace process. But, I repeat, as a separate and co-equal branch of government, we will leave it up to the House of Representatives to decide on this,” Coloma said.

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