TIME is slowly running out for the proposed Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL).
House Majority Leader Neptali Gonzales 2nd admitted that passage of the measure that will create a Bangsamoro region is getting dimmer.
“The number is a cause for concern. This one is more difficult to stir to passage than RH (Reproductive Health bill). RH has been discussed in Congress for so long…long before the 15th Congress. BBL was submitted very late…in September ,” Gonzales said in an interview.
Deliberations on the measure started in plenary on Monday.
The House is expected to hold additional session days on Thursday and Friday this week so as to have enough time for lengthy debates and have the proposed BBL law approved by June 11, the start of Congress’ two-month break.
The House and Senate will resume session on the third Monday of July, when President Benigno Aquino 3rd delivers his final State of the Nation Address.
Gonzales said it will take time for the plenary to tackle the bill considering that deliberations at the committee level took two days to finish.
“Even if we hold sessions until Friday, we’d still have so little time. There are suggestions that we open sessions earlier at 10 am, but that would really depend on who are the lawmakers who will promise to be present. Otherwise, we’ll just wait,” Gonzales pointed out.
“How do you limit discussions? Just consider the amendments proposed by Celso. What if he wants everything on nominal voting? You can’t stop him,” he added.
Gonzales was referring to Zamboanga City Rep. Celso Lobregat who proposed 150 amendments to the BBL bill in the committee level. Of the 150 proposed amendments, only five were accepted.
One of the most contentious provisions of the proposed law is the opt-in clause which allows contiguous cities and municipalities to the Bangsamoro core area and those under the 1976 Tripoli agreement to be part of the Bangsamoro region upon the petition of at least ten percent 10 percent of the registered voters and approved by a majority of qualified votes cast in a plebiscite.
The Tripoli Agreement covers Basilan, Sulu, Tawi-tawi, Zamboanga del Sur, Zamboanga del Norte, North Cotabato, Maguindanao, Sultan Kudarat, Lanao del Norte, Lanao del Sur, Davao del Sur, South Cotabato and Palawan.
Caloocan City Rep. Edgar Erice said his colleagues should not be worried of the opt-in provision if they are serving their constituents well.
“If more than 80 percent of their constituents are Christians, of course, those will not vote for their inclusion in the Bangsamoro. What are they afraid of? The opt-in provision should challenge them to deliver good governance. Otherwise, their constituents would want to leave and join Bangsamoro,” Erice said.
Also yesterday, Malacanang denied reports that it received money from an alleged Chinese crime lord to pay off members of Congress in exchange for the approval of the BBL.
“Allegations on BBL ‘payola’ are baseless and untrue,” Presidential Communications Secretary Herminio Coloma Jr. said in a text message.
A report said that lawmakers allegedly received millions in hard cash last week, shortly after Wang Bo, who is wanted by Interpol and the Chinese government for allegedly embezzling $100 million, was ordered released by the Bureau of Immigration and Deportation.
But Coloma said the only reward promised by the Aquino administration was peace, as well as prosperity, in Mindanao.
“The proposed BBL is the product of a painstaking process of negotiations and democratic consultation. The administration’s campaign for its enactment is premised on achieving enduring peace and prosperity in Mindanao,” he added.
WITH CATHERINE S. VALENTE