Duterte certifies BBL as urgent a day before Congress adjourns

MANILA, Philippines (UPDATED) – A day before Congress adjourns its session, President Rodrigo Duterte certified the proposed Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) as urgent.

Duterte issued the certification on Tuesday, May 29, after meeting with House and Senate leaders in Malacañang on Monday night, May 28.

"The Office of the Executive Secretary issued a certification as urgent both versions on the creation of the BBL pending in both the House of Representatives and in the Senate," Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque announced at the #RealNumbersPH conference in Camp Crame, minutes after the documents were issued. 

He then said in a statement that the certification was the product of "much deliberation" on the part of the President.

Roque also gave assurances that after "both chambers have reconciled and finalized" their versions of the crucial bill, Duterte will sign the BBL.

Earlier in the day, Roque and Presidential Peace Adviser Jesus Dureza had issued confusing statements on whether the President would indeed certify the proposed law as urgent.

Both houses of Congress earlier asked Duterte to certify the bill as urgent to meet their June 2 deadline that would allow the President to highlight it in his 3rd State of the Nation Address (SONA) on July 23. Congress is set to adjourn sine die starting June 2 and resume session on July 23.

With the President's certification, the Senate can approve the bill on 2nd and 3rd readings on the same day, fast-tracking the measure's passage in time for the SONA.

After approval on final reading, the bill would go through bicameral conference committee meetings to reconcile it with the House's version. The reconciled bill will then be ratified in plenary by both houses.

Senate President Vicente Sotto III and House Majority Leader Rodolfo Fariñas said the bicameral conference would be held during the break. Sotto said Congress would ratify the final version of the bill in the morning of July 23, during the opening of the 3rd regular session of the 17th Congress.

Fariñas said the bicameral conference committee report is scheduled to be ratified by both chambers in the morning of July 23. Duterte will then sign the BBL into law in time for his 3rd SONA at 4 pm.

Among the controversial provisions of the BBL are the opt-in clause and the fiscal autonomy for the Bangsamoro region.

The BBL is the culimination of a peace deal signed between the Moro Islamic Liberation Front and the administration of President Benigno Aquino III. Aquino had wanted it passed before he stepped down, but a botched police operation in Mamasapano, Maguindanao, in 2015 derailed its passage. – Rappler.com

Camille Elemia

Camille Elemia is Rappler's lead reporter for media, disinformation issues, and democracy. She won an ILO award in 2017. She received the prestigious Fulbright-Hubert Humphrey fellowship in 2019, allowing her to further study media and politics in the US. Email camille.elemia@rappler.com

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