THE proposed Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) is dead.
Speaker Feliciano Belmonte Jr. and Deputy Speaker Pangalian Balindong admitted that even a miracle will no longer save the measure.
The lawmakers said with only three days left before Congress adjourns for the election campaign period, there is no longer any chance for the BBL to be passed as Malacañang and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) had hoped.
“It will only be a miracle if the Bangsamoro law is passed, but I don’t believe in miracles. If there is political will, it could happen. This bill will see [the]light [of day],” Balindong told reporters.
“Realistically, the target of passing it in the House is remote but still possible. That it will become a law is impossible because the Senate version is different and has not even been discussed in the plenary,” Belmonte said.
House Bill 5811 has remained stuck in the period of amendments.
President Benigno Aquino 3rd had prodded lawmakers to pass the measure but the House was dogged with quorum problems.
Balindong said the proposed Bangsamoro law was aborted even before it could begin its life because of the Mamasapano tragedy.
“There is a mindset against the Muslims. When we started, there was a lot of optimism. When Mamasapano happened, the situation changed. The bias is noticeable,” he noted.
Balindong said most lawmakers showed no interest in passing the measure even if the Ad Hoc panel on the Bangsamoro revised the draft bill by removing the opt-in provision, which would expand the core Bangsamoro area through a plebiscite.
The provisions on the establishment of a Bangsamoro military command, Bangsamoro police, Bangsamoro auditing body, Bangsamoro Civil Service Commission and a Bangsamoro poll body were also removed.
“There is no more room of hope in my heart,” Balindong said.
Sulu Rep. Tupay Loong shared Balindong’s frustration.
“We are deeply saddened that after more than 17 years of arduous negotiations, the Bangsamoro law has a very slim or no chance at all of being passed by the House of Representatives. The bill could possibly not be passed not only because of so many unwarranted suspicions [against]and mistrust [in]the Bangsamoro people, but because of lack of interest of so many members of the House of Representatives,” Loong said.
The two Muslim lawmakers expressed fear that the proposed Bangsamoro law will not be pursued in the same way by the next administration.
“It is not a matter of not trusting the next administration, but each administration has a different policy. What if the next President declares an all-out war? Would the Bangsamoro law stand a chance in that situation? That is our problem. We are not sure of the next administration will adopt the present policy,” Balindong said.
“This administration is determined and sincere in pursuing a Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro. Without the Bangsamoro law [in place], I am afraid that this will result again [in]a shooting war. We cannot control people fighting for freedom, justice or any interest,” Loong said.
In a privileged speech late on Wednesday, Balindong noted that his colleagues’ chronic absences from the plenary session sent the message that they wanted to punish Muslims because of the killing of 44 police commandos in Mamasapano, Maguindanao, last year.
“I close the book of hope for the passage of the BBL. 51 public hearings, 200 hours of committee level debates and eight months of consultations are all put to waste—thrown into the abyss of uncertainty and darkness. One tragic and unexpected event not of our own making—the Mamasapano—labeled us again as terrorists, extremists, enemies, traitors and murderers,” he said.
“By the sheer tyranny of the majority, we have foreclosed all possible peaceful, legal and constitutional avenues for peace,” Balindong added.
“No matter how we debate on the justness of the Bangsamoro cause, the reality is that there are only 10 Moro legislators against more than 280 members of this House. We are only 10 lone voices in the wilderness of bias, prejudice and hatred,” he said.
MILF peace panel chairman Mohagher Iqbal earlier threw in the towel, saying the group’s optimism that Congress will pass the BBL “has long been buried and dead.”
“My only concern is that the BBL is still pending in Congress. Chances are high that it will not pass at all,” Iqbal added. “Signs are already pointing to that direction. There is lack of quorum in the House and I think, if it will not be passed these three days, I don’t think it will be passed at all,” he said.