SENATE President Franklin Drilon on Thursday expressed optimism that the chamber will be able to pass its version of the Bangsamoro Basic Law called Basic Law on the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region (BLABAR) next month.
Plenary deliberation on the measure will resume after the passage of the proposed P3 trillion 2016 budget.
“We only have one senator who will interpellate, Senator Juan Ponce Enrile. Assuming that this is the case, we should be able to terminate the period of debates by the first week of December,” Drilon said.
Senator Ferdinand Marcos Jr., who heads the Senate Committee on Local Government, sponsored his substitute bill to the Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) or Senate bill No. 2894 in August. Marcos said his version of the bill fulfills the intention of the original measure to the extent that the Constitution allows, as well as the desires of the Bangsamoro people for meaningful autonomy.
Drilon said the chamber has ample time to pass the Bangsamoro bill before Congress takes its break on December 18.
“I don’t know about the House of Representatives, but we have a chance [to pass the BBL],” he added.
The National Security Council on Thursday strongly appealed to Congress to approve the Bangsamoro measure, saying it will be a deterrent to radical and extremist movements.
National Security Adviser Cesar Garcia Jr. made the call in a letter submitted to the House Ad Hoc Committee on the Bangsamoro Chairman and Cagayan de Oro Rep. Rufus Rodriguez.
“In the light of the recent horrible spate of violence that we have been witnessing in Paris, Mali, Syria and other parts of the world, passing the Bangsamoro law can help in curbing the spread of extremism in Mindanao. In particular, the Bangsamoro government would be able to help moderate Islamic leaders to counter the ideology of radicalism being promoted by the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) and steer the Muslim community away from ISIS influence,” Garcia said.
“From this global lens, the Philippine peace process on the Bangsamoro has earned the support of the international community for providing a model whereby an Islamic movement can find redress of its grievances through a civilized and democratic process, within the country’s territorial integrity and constitutional framework,” he added.
Garcia said the approval of the measure will also pave the way for the decommissioning of thousands of weapons and combatants of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), enabling a peaceful transition of an armed group whose members will participate free and fair elections.
The framework agreement on the peace pact between the government provides that the decommissioning will be in four phases: ceremonial turnover which was held in June, the turnover of the 30 percent of arms after the passage of the proposed Bangsamoro law, turnover of an additional 30 percent of firearms upon finishing the plebiscite on areas included in the Bangsamoro Region, and 100 percent turnover once the Bangsamoro Region is created before the May 2016 elections.
The NSC official said the passage of the measure will allow the Armed Forces of the Philippines to focus on other threats to the country.
“This [Bangsamoro law] will settle one of the more serious internal armed conflicts and essentially free up a significant component of the Armed Forces of the Philippines… to shift resources to focus on external concerns, principally the protection of our external territorial integrity and maritime domain which is now being threatened,” Garcia pointed out.
“Some say that the next administration and Congress will have more time. Our fear is that it would have lost precious time too—precious time that could have closed the door to extreme, violent movements that recruit followers by exploiting the alienation of segments of the population from government and society at large.”
“We are at the cusp of closing a major armed conflict that has divided our people for decades, but we cannot reach our destination without the goodwill and show of statesmanship from our leaders in the august halls of Congress, in whose hands the legislative power lies. We ask our legislators to work for the immediate passage of the draft law on the Bangsamoro. Time is short, but there is still time,” Garcia added.