THE prospects of passing the Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) remain dim even in the next Congress where proponents of the measure expect to face a “bigger challenge” owing to the anticipated turnout of the May 9 elections.
According to Miriam Coronel-Ferrer, chairperson of the government peace panel, while the MILF “endeavored to exhaust the legislative process, the 16th Congress simply defaulted.”
The official, who spoke during a meeting with their Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) counterparts and other stakeholders in Malaysia to re-assess means of moving forward in light of lawmakers’ failure to pass the proposed law, said they will have a “better reading” of the prospects and “best tack” after the polls.
“In any case, in the Senate we generally foresee a majority who will be supportive of a good BBL being obtained. This estimate is based on those who would stay, those who are rating well in surveys and, moreover, the fact that several of the contrary ones would no longer be around,” Ferrer said.
However, she painted a grim picture an the case of the House of Representatives.
“The House probably remains the bigger challenge given these figures: almost half are re-electionists, a good number are running unopposed, others are relatives of incumbents, and the rest new entrants or comebacks,” she said.
“While the next President may also have less of the leverages traditionally wielded by the chief executive precisely because of the reforms that have been instituted in the budget system and the illegalization of the PDAF, he or she will enjoy a honeymoon period and will harvest many of the turncoats and can therefore heavily influence the movements in the House,” Ferrer added.
The peace panel chief lamented that of the 40 or so amendments introduced by House Bill 5811, the Bangsamoro Transition Commission (BTC) lobbied for the retention of 28 provisions, which shows that it is “not true that the proponents would not allow any change in the original draft.”
“Shouldn’t a revolutionary movement acting as a congressional lobby group in fact be welcomed? The passage of other controversial laws like the Reproductive Health Law and the Sin Tax Law were accompanied by the same pushing and steadfastness by lobbyists to preserve important provisions but they were treated with much less antipathy that the BBL advocates endured,” Ferrer said.
Despite their loss, Ferrer described their legislative bout as “a fight well fought.”
“We lost several rounds but each time the peace advocates altogether stood up to continue the fight. Not for any prize money or fame, but for the just share of the fruits of freedom and democracy for the Bangsamoro,” she pointed out.
“With humility, we accept the weaknesses and imperfections of our efforts. We held hundreds of consultations, but apparently we need to do thousands more. We strained to straighten out the misinformation again and again. We still need to do even more,” she stressed.
MILF peace panel and BTC chairman Mohagher Iqbal said the death of the BBL spawned renewed doubts on the sincerity of the government.
“We have learned our lessons. The problem is structural and systemic… [T]here is widespread frustration on the ground by our people and members of the MILF. They accused the government of resorting again to delaying tactic and just managing the conflict in Mindanao,” he said.