House panel shelves Bangsamoro debates

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The House of Representatives will not resume deliberations on the proposed Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) until the Justice department finishes its probe on the Mamasapano tragedy next month, Rep. Rufus Rodriguez, Chairman of the House Ad Hoc Committee on the Bangsamoro, said on Monday.

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Justice Secretary Leila de Lima said charges may be filed against those who mowed down 44 police commandos in Mamasapano, Maguindanao in January may be filed a month from now.

“We are requesting the [Justice] Secretary to fast track [the deadline]. Otherwise, what would happen to BBL if we fail to file the charges? There will be no justice. There can be no peace without justice,” Rodriguez said.

The DOJ designated five seasoned state prosecutors to build up a case against the killers of the Special Action Force members– Assistant State Prosecutors Juan Paulo Navera, Irwin Maraya, Gino Paolo Santiago, Jocelyn Dugay, and assistant prosecution attorney Ethel Rea Suril.

But Rodriguez said if the Justice department will stick to its timeline, Congress will have no choice but to conduct special sessions from June 11 to 25 to tackle the BBL. He said the measure may be put to a vote in the committee level on March 18 since Congress will adjourn on that date and will resume session on May 4.

Congress will be in session until June 22 before again going on a month-long break.

Meanwhile, the Senate committee on local government remains committed in completing the BBL hearings.

Senator Ferdinand Marcos Jr., head of the panel, said his committee is willing to conduct hearings on the measure even during the Senate break.

But he noted that the reports of the Philippine National Police and the Senate committee on public order and dangerous drugs chaired by Senator Grace Poe is crucial, particularly on the issue of ceasefire.

“We can start studying these mechanisms on ceasefire and the Mamasapano incident would serve as a guide for the committee,” Marcos explained.

The senator admitted that passing the BBL before Congress adjourns sine die in June may be difficult.

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