Bangsamoro bill reaches House plenary
MANILA, Philippines – Amid a tight deadline and staunch opposition, what are the chances of the proposed Bangsamoro basic law (BBL) in the House of Representatives?
The proposed BBL formally reached the House plenary on Monday, June 1, after 8 months of deliberations and 51 commitee hearings.
In his sponsorship speech, Cagayan de Oro Representative Rufus Rodriguez, chair of the House ad hoc committee on the measure, said the bill – a product of the peace accord between the government and rebel group Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) "took years in the making, paid for by blood and tears by our people."
But the passage of the bill in the House is expected to face rough sailing.
Although the passage of the bill at committee level gave hope the House would approve it before session adjourns on June 11, House Majority Floor Leader Neptali Gonzales II on Monday laid down the cards about time contraints.
Compared with the reproductive health law – the most divisive legislation to be passed in Congress in recent years – approving the BBL, renamed Basic Law for the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region, in the House of Representative is proving to be more difficult, Gonzales said.
Unlike the RH law, Gonzales said the BBL was submitted to Congress "very late." Congress had a two-year lead time to debate the RH law on the floor, compared to the less than one year for the BBL, and discussions were already at an advanced stage. It took almost two decades to pass the RH law.
"This one (the BBL) is more difficult because when we approved the RH bill, it was not just the 15th Congress that tackled it. It was tackled several congresses ago," Gonzales said.
The BBL seeks to create a new autonomous government in Muslim Mindanao with greater powers and resources in a bid to end 4 decades of war. It will be parliamentary in form – a unique arrangement in the midst of a unitary and presidential system for the rest of the country.
The House and the Senate were expecting the BBL to be submitted a month after the signing of the final peace deal between the government and rebel group Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) in March 2014.
But the submission was pushed back to September after it took Malacañang two months to review the original draft submitted by the MILF-led Bangsamoro Transition Commission.
The Aquino administration and the MILF had hoped to ink a peace pact by the first half of Aquino's term and implement the deal during the second half of his term. But delays and deadlocks in the negotiations also pushed the deadline.
Whether the House can beat the deadline to pass the law by June 11 also depends on whether the number of members who will report for work will be enough to sustain a quorum.
To beat the deadline, the House needs to compress the period of debates, period of amendments, the second reading vote, and the 3rd reading vote within two weeks.
Does House have the numbers?
As the BBL debate moves to plenary, does the House have the numbers to pass it?
Gonzales said the House leadership was still unsure about the number of votes but it is "a number that is a cause of concern."
Although the bill passed with an overwhelming 50-17 vote, with one abstention in the committee, the Majority Leader said the plenary is a different landscape.
Judging by how discussions went during deliberations in the 70-member ad hoc committee, Gonzales said there is no guarantee the number of lawmakers in the 289-member chamber can be controlled.
Asked if an urgent stamp from the President will help, Gonzales quipped: "Ang lalim ng buntong hininga ko (I took a deep breath). I don't know. It's difficult because how will you limit interpellation?"
The House was expected to pass the law by March but the death of 67 Filipinos in the Mamasapano clash led to a political fallout that delayed deliberations and eroded support.
At the Senate meanwhile, Senate President Franklin Drilon admitted that senators would not be able to meet the June deadline after Senator Ferdinand Marcos Jr decided to hold more committee hearings. At least 12 senators, including 5 co-authors, signed Senator Miriam Defensor Santiago's report concluding that the BBL as submitted is unconstitutional. – Rappler.com
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