ZAMBOANGA CITY, Philippines – After holding public consultations in Sulu and Zamboanga, Senator Ferdinand Marcos Jr said beating the June deadline for the proposed Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) has become “very difficult.”
The hearing held in Jolo on Wednesday, May 13 had a dominant anti-BBL sentiment as senior leaders of rebel group Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF), and representatives of the Sulu sultanate and indigenous peoples’ groups decried how they were left out of the peace process.
In Zamboanga, key local officials reiterated their call to exclude Zamboanga from the new autonomous region despite earlier assurances from the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process that the province will not be included in the plebiscite to ratify the law.
To “remedy” the alleged failure to conduct extensive consultations with other groups, Marcos is set to hold 3 separate hearings with the 3 groups in Manila in the midst of a tight deadline to pass the law. The last day of hearing is on May 25, leaving the Senate only 9 session days to pass the bill in plenary to beat the deadline.
“We are aware of the desire of the Palace to finish the BBL this session, but as I have always said, the priority is not the schedule but to get it right,” Marcos said.
Over at the House of Representatives, the committee vote in the bill was reset to May 18 after lawmakers proposed a series of amendments at the last-minute.
House and Senate leaders earlier agreed to pass the law by June 11 before Congress adjourns session.
When lawmakers report back for work in July, it would mark the last State of the Nation Address of President Benigno Aquino III. Before this, Aquino is expected to name his chosen presidential bet – an event that would determine how political alliances in Congress would move with one year to go before the 2016 elections.
The BBL was supposed to have been passed in March but the debacle over the Mamasapano clash, which killed 67 Filipinos, caused hearings to be postponed, delaying the passage of the bill.
Marikina Representative Miro Quimbo earlier said the BBL can be considered ‘dead’ if it is not passed by June.
The BBL seeks to create an enhanced autonomous region in Muslim Mindanao with more power, resources and possibly a bigger territory. (READ: How different is ARMM from Bangsamoro?)
It is part of the implementation phase of the peace accord between the government and rebel group Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) that was signed after 17 years of negotiations. – Rappler.com