• Govt urged to submit Bangsamoro bill now

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    Four congressmen have called on Malacañang to submit to the House of Representatives the Bangsamoro Basic Law immediately to speed up formation of the Bangsamoro Region in southern Philippines.

    Making Congress wait longer would delay approval of the Bangsamoro law, they said, citing looming debates on the 2015 national budget.

    House Deputy Majority Leader Sherwin Tugna of Citizens’ Battle Against Corruption party-list, House appropriations panel chairman Isidro Ungab of Davao City, Rep. Luz Ilagan of Gabriela party-list and former Rep. Simeon Datumanong of Maguindanao made the warning on Thursday with only nine session days left before Congress adjourns sine die.

    When Congress adjourns sine die on June 11, it will go on break for more than a month before it opens again on the fourth Monday of July, the same day that President Benigno Aquino 3rd will deliver his fifth State of the Nation Address (Sona).

    “The truth is, if it will not be submitted to the House [of Representatives]before we adjourn this June 11, there will be a limited time to discuss it between the Sona until mid-October. Congress has to work double time and extend session hours to deliberate on the Bangsamoro Basic Law and the [proposed]2015 budget,” Tugna said in a text message.

    The Bangsamoro Basic law is an offshoot of the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro (CAB), which was signed between the government and the former separatist group Moro Islamic Liberation Front last March 27 and practically ended almost four decades of armed struggle for the MILF.

    The comprehensive agreement also carries provisions on transitional modalities, power sharing and wealth sharing, among other economic and political issues.

    “It is possible that the passage of the Bangsamoro law will be hampered because the [proposed]budget has always been the priority of the House once it is submitted to Congress. I cannot recommend a fixed date for the Bangsamoro law’s submission, but there should be ample time for scrutiny and public hearings,” Ungab admitted.

    The proposed Bangsamoro Basic law was drafted by the Transition Commission and was submitted for Palace approval on April 14 this year.

    The government and MILF are eyeing the establishment of the Bangsamoro Region by 2015 and the election of Bangsamoro leaders by 2016 coinciding with the 2016 elections that will pick President Aquino’s successor.

    “The proposed Bangsamoro Basic Law should be submitted to Congress before it adjourns sine die. The delay in the submission of the draft could delay its enactment because Congress has to give priority to the budget enactment,” Datumanong said.

    It has been the policy of the Aquino administration to pass its proposed national budget on the day that the President delivers his Sona.

    “The deadline for the submission of the proposed Bangsamoro Basic Law was yesterday! We have been waiting for the final version of it since the signing of the framework. Now, it could be overtaken by events such as the Sona and the budget,” Ilagan said.

    During the last two session days this week, Congress adjourned around 5:30 p.m. because of lack of quorum on the plenary floor.

    “There was so much fanfare during the signing. Now, we haven’t heard of it, not even a whisper. The ARMM is in limbo. What is taking Malacañang so long [to submit the Bangsamoro bill]?,” Ilagan asked, referring to the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao, which will be replaced by the Bangsamoro Region.

    But Rep. Romero Quimbo of Marikina City (Metro Manila), House ways and means committee chairman, said Congress has always had the ability to deliberate on other laws while the budget is being deliberated on.

    “I am confident that we will manage it. The better question is not when it should be filed. Rather, [it should be]what is the quality of the bill that they will propose. If an infirm bill is filed early, that’s worse. I’d rather wait for a bill that may be belated but is crafted well and soundly,” Quimbo added.

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