Malacañang on Wednesday admitted the possibility that the proposed Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) may not be passed this year because of the delay in its submission to Congress.
“We would hope that we can expedite the process, but we realize that it has not yet been submitted to Congress,” Palace spokesman Edwin Lacierda told reporters in a news conference.
He said the Senate and the House of Representatives are now “working on a timetable from, if not the end of December, to the first quarter of next year.”
“And so, they [Congress] are being realistic, for instance, on the timetable. But, again, everyone is conscious of the fact that this is an important measure from government, and therefore, this should be attended to as soon as it is submitted to Congress for deliberation,” the spokesman added.
Despite the delay, Lacierda gave assurances that there will still be enough time to conduct a plebiscite on the creation of a new Bangsamoro homeland and put in place the Bangsamoro Transition Authority next year, ahead of the 2016 elections.
“Certainly, we would like to see that the bill be submitted as early as possible. It creates a concern on capacity-building when it is not submitted on time and it is not in accordance with the timetable,” he said.
“The panels are aware of the timeline. But the panels are also equally aware that the substance should be discussed mutually and agreed mutually,” Lacierda added.
Senate President Franklin Drilon earlier pointed out that because of the delayed filing, he could not guarantee the bill’s passage by December this year.
“When will the administration be able to submit the draft?” Drilon asked in a radio interview. “Suppose they submit it in December? Don’t insist that we pass it by December. In fairness to us, we haven’t seen what it looks like.”
On Monday, Speaker Feliciano Belmonte Jr. said the continued delay in the submission also made it impossible for the House of Representatives to commit to the passage of the measure by year-end.
“Time is running out. Moreover there are many congressmen from Mindanao who would be more concerned,” Belmonte added.
Malacañang earlier announced that President Benigno Aquino 3rd will submit the proposed law as an urgent legislative measure after delivering his State of the Nation Address before a joint session of Congress on July 28 but he failed to do so.
Presidential Communications Secretary Herminio Coloma Jr. said the government and Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) peace panels are working together to make sure that the proposed Bangsamoro law will be passed smoothly.
He added that the two panels will utilize “appropriate language” to ensure compliance with the Constitution.
The MILF had warned that it would reject a “diluted version” of the BBL draft that was submitted earlier by the Bangsamoro Transition Commission.
But Coloma noted that the government and MILF peace panels “are working to reach agreement on the precise and proper language to ensure the outcome adheres to the Constitution.”
This will ensure, he said, “that the bill will not be bogged down by lengthy debates in Congress, especially as to its constitutionality.”
“They also want to craft a bill that will not require constitutional amendments to operationalize, so as to ensure that the peace and development efforts post-BBL will be on track, so that flow of this process will be continuous based on the peace process road map,” Coloma added.