House panel vote on BBL moved to May 18

Angela Casauay
House panel vote on BBL moved to May 18
Cagayan de Oro Representative Rufus Rodriguez says the scheduled vote was postponed to give lawmakers ample time to study the proposed changes

MANILA, Philippines (UPDATED) – The scheduled voting on the proposed Bangsamoro Basic Law at committee level was delayed anew after leaders of the House of Representatives agreed to move the proceedings to Monday, May 18.  

The cause of delay is the Iast-minute proposals for amendments that were introduced on Monday, May 11. 

Cagayan de Oro Representative Rufus Rodriguez, chair of the committee, said the scheduled vote was postponed to give lawmakers ample time to study the proposed changes.  

“Yes, voting reset to May 18, 19 and 20. We have to consolidate all the proposed amendments including the numerous amendments proposed this afternoon and those to be submitted tomorrow,” Rodriguez said in a text message. 

The 75-member House ad hoc committee on the BBL was supposed to put the BBL to a line-by-line vote on Monday but the same proposed amendments took up the time.  

Voting was initially set for Tuesday, May 12, during the hearing. 

But House leaders met after the hearing and agreed to postpone the proceedings.

The cancellation of Tuesday’s vote further constricts the timeline to pass the BBL before Congress adjourns session on June 11 and before President Benigno Aquino III delivers his final State of the Nation Address in July.

Tight deadline

With one week’s worth of time that can be spent debating the bill now set to be lost, can the House still meet the deadline? 

Rodriguez said members are prepared to work overtime.

“Yes. We are prepared to defend the bill in plenary from 4 pm to 12 midnight everyday,” Rodriguez said.

The House, which has 290 members, would be left with only three weeks to debate on the bill on the floor, introduce further amendments, and put the bill to a vote on second and third reading. 

Over at the Senate, committee hearings are still being conducted until the last week of May. 

Should the BBL pass both the House and the Senate, the two versions of the bill would still need to be reconciled in a bicameral conference committee, unless one chamber agrees to adopt the other’s version. 

It remains to be seen whether there would be substantial differences but Rodriguez and Senator Ferdinand Marcos Jr, chair of the committee tackling the BBL, have indicated different stands on key provisions of the measure, especially on fiscal autonomy. Senator Miriam Defensor Santiago has also remained firm on her stand that the BBL as it is written is unconstitutional. 

Once the BBL passes Congress, it would have to be ratified in a plebiscite in proposed core areas of the Bangsamoro. 

Meeting the June deadline is crucial to give the Commision on Elections time to prepare for the plebiscite, which is targeted to be conducted before the filing of certificates of candidacies for the 2016 elections in October. 

And as the 2016 elections draw closer, political movements are expected to intensify, especially with President Benigno Aquino III set to announce his presidential bet by June – affecting alliances in Congress. 

Another consideration is the possibility that the law would be questioned before the Supreme Court and delay the plebiscite. 

The BBL seeks to create an enhanced autonomous region in Muslim Mindanao with greater powers and resources, as well as possibly a larger territory, in an attempt to end 4 decades of war in Mindanao.

The bill implements the peace deal between the government and rebel group Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) signed in March 2014 after 17 years of negotiations.

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