BAR bill faces rough sailing in Congress

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THE House of Representatives and the Senate will have a tough time reconciling the differences in their respective versions of the proposed law on the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region, Rep. Rufus Rodriguez admitted on Saturday.

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“It is a difficult task. There are a lot of balancing acts to be done to ensure that the BLBAR (Basic Law for the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region) remains true both to the genuine aspirations of the Bangsamoro for self-determination and the 1987 Constitution. But I think the differences in both versions could be ironed out when the bill reaches the bicameral panel,” Rodriguez, the chairman of the House Ad Hoc panel, said.

The biggest challenge for House members will be accepting the deletion by the Senate of the Preamble and the P17 billion Special Development Fund for the Bangsamoro Region for the first five years of its existence to speed up infrastructure development.

“As legislators with independent minds, different takes on the bill are to be expected. But we want everybody on board the peace process,” Rodriguez said.

The proposed Bangsamoro Autonomous Region is a product of the peace agreement inked between the government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front. It will replace the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao and will enjoy fiscal autonomy and be governed by the Bangsamoro parliament.

“Both committees have been working on the same pre¬mise that the [Bangsamoro] Basic Law should be inclusive so as not to alienate any stake¬holder in the Bangsamoro. That is the beauty of our democratic system. You have independent minds working on the same thing who will eventually compare notes and reach a consensus,” Rodriguez said.

The lawmaker however admitted that they are running out of time in reaching a consensus.

“This is a very important juncture. The consensus should be reached very soon. We should pass this now since this is a very important legacy of Congress to ensure peace and development not only in Mindanao, but throughout the country,” he said.

The proposed law should be passed by Congress in September so that the Commission on Elections and the Bangsamoro Transition Commission will have enough time to prepare for a referendum and transfer power to new Bangsamoro officials before President Benigno Aquino 3rd steps down in June 2016.

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