The House ad hoc panel on the proposed Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) on Monday postponed its voting on the measure to next week because of last-minute proposed amendments from lawmakers.
Cagayan de Oro City Rep. Rufus Rodriguez, committee chairman, made the announcement since Representatives Nancy Catamco of North Cotabato and Anthony del Rosario of Davao del Norte, among others, were still proposing amendments to the measure, which will create a Bangsamoro Region that will have fiscal autonomy and be governed by the Bangsamoro parliament.
The BBL—the product of the peace agreement between the government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF)—also provides the Bangsamoro Region an annual block grant, which is 2.4 percent of the national tax collection, a Special Development Fund worth P17 billion (P7 billion initially and P2 billion for each of the next five years) and a P1 billion transition fund for the infrastructure construction and rehabilitation.
“Tomorrow, amendments won’t be accepted anymore. The voting will start at 9:30 a.m.,” Rodriguez said.
His panel was supposed to vote on the BBL’s provision line by line today and has pondered secret balloting.
The secret balloting, however, will not push through.
Lawmakers suddenly became wary of the BBL passage in the aftermath of the Mamasapano tragedy last January 25 that left 44 members of the Special Action Force dead after being at the receiving end of a deadly assault from the MILF.
The incident turned out to be a game-changer since there is an existing ceasefire between the two parties, on top of the peace pact that both parties signed in March 2014.
It was later learned that the SAF operation designed to arrest or kill international terrorist Zulkifli bin Hir alias Marwan was kept from the knowledge of the Armed Forces of the Philippines and the MILF forces in Mamasapano, a known MILF stronghold.
MILF chief negotiator Mohagher Iqbal earlier appealed to the lawmakers to take a chance on the BBL because the MILF still wants to pursue the peace process and has been very trusting of the government despite what happened in Mamasapano.
“I hope that they will reconsider [their stance of not trusting us]because we are partners in peace. As partners in peace, we should trust each other. If we don’t trust each other, we can’t move forward. We have made so many strides because we trust the President trusts the MILF,” Iqbal said in an earlier interview, referring to President Benigno Aquino 3rd.
Congress should be able to send its approved BBL version before the President by June so that he can sign it into law.
The June deadline is needed to give the Bangsamoro Transition Authority time to lay the groundwork en route to the Bangsamoro elections in May 2016.