MANILA, Philippines (UPDATED) – Three House committees approved the proposed Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) without any amendments on Tuesday, May 15.
The House joint committees on local government, Muslim affairs, and peace, reconciliation, and unity approved the committee report on House Bill (HB) No 6475, voting 32-3, 27-3, and 27-3, respectively.
HB 6475 seeks to abolish the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) and create in its place a new Bangsamoro region.
The bill is the same version as the one proposed by the Bangsamoro Transition Committee, which was filed by Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez, Majority Leader Rodolfo Fariñas, and Minority Leader Danilo Suarez in October 2017.
This is despite the committee members spending 22 hearings in the past months to discuss possible amendments to the proposed BBL. Zamboanga City 1st District Representative Celso Lobregat raised this concern before the voting.
“Anong point noong hearings natin (What was the point of holding hearings)?” asked Lobregat.
Lanao del Norte 1st District Representative Khalid Dimaporo also questioned the tallying of votes when the 3 committees voted on HB 4675 in an executive session last month.
The Muslim affairs and peace, unity, and reconciliation panels approved the measure with a vote of 5-3 and 6-4, respectively. The local government committee, however, turned it down with a vote of 1-9. HB 4675 was deemed approved, because two of the 3 panels committees voted in favor of it.
But Dimaporo said there is an “impasse” because if each vote of committee members will be counted, more lawmakers are actually against the passage of HB 4675.
Voting yes to speed up the process
House Assistant Majority Leader Juan Pablo Bondoc then stepped in, explaining the 3 committees would vote separately.
“So the votes of each committee will be the vote of the joint [panels]. So if it’s two pro and one against, then that will be the record,” he said.
The Pampanga 4th District Representative also assured the lawmakers that their proposed amendments will be discussed at the “proper time,” referring to the all-member caucuses the House leadership plans to hold “as soon as possible.”
“What was the point of all holding of the committee hearings and public consultations if HB 6475 will be approved without amendments? So dear colleagues, there will be amendments at the proper time….So please don’t fight the process,” said Bondoc.
He admitted the majority was expected to vote yes to the committee report on Monday to speed up the process.
But legislators who wish to raise objections at the caucuses or at the plenary need to write a letter to the House secretary-general so they will be recognized on the floor.
“So you may be voting yes today to speed it up, but please submit your letter to the SecGen to say that you will oppose it on the floor, and we will gladly accept that. So ours is just management of the process,” said Bondoc.
Malacañang on Wednesday, May 16, hailed the committee approval of the report on the administration measure.
"The President has expressed his support and commitment to the Bangsamoro Basic Law as a significant step towards our quest for real and lasting peace in Mindanao," said Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque.
The BBL is the culimination of a peace deal signed between the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) and the government during the administration of then 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.
Mara Cepeda specializes in stories about politics and local governance. She covers the Office of the Vice President, the Senate, and the Philippine opposition. She is a 2021 fellow of the Asia Journalism Fellowship and the Reham al-Farra Memorial Journalism Fellowship of the UN. Got tips? Email her at email@example.com or tweet @maracepeda.