House misses Bangsamoro bill deadline

MANILA, Philippines – The House of Representatives adjourned its last regular session on Wednesday, December 16, without passing the proposed Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL).

Congress goes on a month-long break for the holidays. 

The Senate and the House of Representatives earlier vowed to pass the BBL by December 16. They only managed to finish the period of interpellations on Wednesday evening.

Lanao del Sur 2nd District Representative Pangalian Malindong moved to terminate the period of interpellations. Sulu First District Representative Tupay Loong seconded.

According to Loong, the issues being raised in the interpellations had "likewise been thoroughly discussed, debated, and voted upon." 

The measure will now be up for voting on second reading and be open for amendments.

Given the many cases where sessions were suspended due to lack of quorum, BBL discussions had been delayed.  

A week before the House's last remaining session days, Speaker Feliciano Belmonte Jr acknowledged the likelihood that the BBL would not be passed by the target date. Belmonte said the best they could do is finish the period of interpellations.

As soon as lawmakers are done with interpellations, "they can enter the period of amendments" and apply the changes to submit a revised version of the measure to the committee, Belmonte told reporters in an interview before the floor session started on Wednesday.

He also disclosed he had high hopes of passing the bill. However, there were "events really [that] affected the timetable." 

"You know you also have a series of holidays. [In] the series of 3 days [of session], wala nang sisipot (no one will attend) on the first and the third," he defended. 

He also underscored: "[Particularly] this is campaign period...at saka bad weather pa to top it, maraming mga rason." (And bad weather to top it, there are many reasons). And that is a phenomenon these last few weeks.)

Pass it to the next admin?

Senator Ferdinand "Bongbong" Marcos Jr said earlier on Wednsday that there was no time to pass the BBL under President Benigno Aquino III's administration. (READ: Marcos: Bangsamoro law won't be passed under Aquino

Marcos said he is 99% sure members of the House are candidates "for one thing and another" and will be busy campaigning in 2016.

House Minority Floor Leader San Juan Representative Ronaldo Zamora echoed Marcos, saying he "would like to look [into] the BBL in the next administration."

He said the BBL would not have a chance in this administration if the House leadership would not consider the minority's proposals, such as removing the opt-in provision.

"No matter how we discuss it, [the] minority is against BBL in its present form," Zamora said.

"Walang mangyayari d'yan kung hindi nila pakikinggan and sinasabi namin."  (It will head nowhere if they would not listen to our proposals.)

Iqbal remains hopeful

Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) chief negotiator Mohager Iqbal was present during the session.

Speaking to reporters on the sidelines of the plenary, Iqbal said he was there to send a message that they are serious that Congress should pass the BBL.

Asked about remarks of lawmakers to pass it under the next administration, Iqbal said "there is no time but now."

"As far as [the] MILF concerned, and I think all those supporting the BBL, the day is now, not the next administration," he said. "We still trust the President that, at the end of the day, the BBL will be delivered." Rappler.com