Philippine economy

‘Bangsamoro law first; not FOI, anti-dynasty bills’

Angela Casauay
‘Bangsamoro law first; not FOI, anti-dynasty bills’
Malacañang, the Senate, and the House do not count the freedom of information and anti-political dynasty bills as priority. The President has 'higher priorities in his plate,' the Palace says
MANILA, Philippines – For Malacañang and Congress, there will always be measures more important than long-pending bills freedom of information (FOI) and the anti-political dynasty bills. 
The Bangsamoro basic law is Malacañang’s “high priority,” Palace Communications Secretary Herminio Coloma Jr said Monday, May 5, in a press conference. 
The President has always said that there are “higher priorities in his plate” than FOI bill and the anti-political dynasty bill, said Coloma. 
“Kaya hahayaan na lang po natin na maisagawa ng mga mambabatas kung ano man ang nais nila hinggil diyan,” Coloma said. (We will just leave it to the lawmakers to do what they want.)
Coloma said Malacañang acknowledges the “sense of urgency” in passing the Bangsamoro basic law, as the 2016 target to complete the transition process to replace the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao to the Bangsamoro political entity looms.
The draft Bangsamoro law has yet to be submitted to Congress, however.
“It has to arrive first,” said House Majority Floor Leader Neptali Gonzales II. 
The draft Bangsamoro basic law, which puts the peace agreement between the government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front into legal form, is still under review by Malacañang. 
Once the evaluation is done, the Malacañang-approved version of the draft law will be transmitted to Congress and certified as urgent by the President. 
What’s the timeline?
Coloma, however, could not provide a definite timeline for the completion of the review. 
Aalamin po natin muli sa kanila. Ang tinitiyak lang natin sa ating mga kababayan ay isinasagawa itong pag-aaral na ito sa isang masusing paraan at titiyakin pa rin na maisumite ito sa lalong madaling panahon,” Coloma said.
(We will ask the legal team. We are assuring our countrymen that we are conducting this review in a meticulous manner and we ensure that this will be submitted at the soonest possible time.)
Senator Miriam Defensor-Santiago has questioned the constitutionality of the measure, specifically the provisions on power-sharing between the proposed Bangsamoro government and the central government. 
The House of Representatives, for its part, is planning to set up an ad hoc super committee to scrutinize the measure. 
House, Senate set agenda
On Monday, leaders of both chambers of Congress met to set what bills to prioritize before the 1st regular session of the 16th Congress ends in June.
Senate President Franklin Drilon and Speaker Feliciano Belmonte Jr agreed to pass 16 bills before June 13, the final day of the first regular session of the 16th Congress.
The list does not include the FOI and anti-political dynasty bills. 
Most of the proposed laws concern education, Drilon said in a press release. The priority bills include measures on the national student loan program, scholarships, open learning, distance education, ladderized education, and the establishment of special education center.
The list also includes:
  • The expansion of Philhealth coverage
  • Amendments to the Sandiganbayan law
  • Requiring picture-based health warnings to curb smoking
  • Amendments to the Fisheries Code
  • Amendments to the Comprehensive Dangerous Drugs Act
  • Extension of the corporate life of the Philippine National Railways
  • Granting franchise to the Cotabato LIght and Power Company
  • Mandating telecommiunication companies to send out alerts during the time of disasters
  • Postponement by another year of the SK elections
  • Creation of the Quezon City Development Authority 
While the FOI would have to take a backseat to the Bangsamoro basic law for now, Aquino earlier expressed his intent for Congress to pass the access to information bill before his term ends.
The Senate has already approved the FOI bill on third and final readingBelmonte also vowed to pass the measure by 2016.
Meanwhile, Gonzales said the anti-dynasty bill is up for sponsorship on the floor Tuesday, May 6, after its historic passage at the committee level in November 2013.

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