UNTIL President BS Aquino decided to ressurrect the issue, most Filipinos were quite content and relieved that the controversial and unconstitutional Bangsamoro Basic Law
(BBL) was apparently dying of neglect in the houses of Congress.
The neglect was well-deserved because hearings and debates in both the Senate and the House clearly and emphatically showed that the bill, if enacted, would create a state within our national territory and entrust to one rebel faction the administration and control of a large part of Mindanao and Sulu.
No sponsor of the measure, beginning with the President himself, successfully presented to our people and to Congress a persuasive brief for the BBL and a defense against the strong objections raised by so many, including major groups in Mindanao.
No official of the government, least of all the government’s peace adviser and chief peace negotiator ever answered the charge that the BBL was a Trojan horse for Malaysia and that it was being pushed in Congress by the administration because of a secret deal between the Malaysian prime minister and President Aquino.
In calling for a luncheon meeting last Tuesday with his allies in the House, Aquino sought to revive congressional interest in passing the BBL. 150 House members, including top officers of the chamber, were present.
They haggled over the size of the bribe
But instead of reaching a quick consensus on what to do with the measure, the meeting transmogrified into a prolonged haggling over the size of the bribe each congressman would get for voting for the measure.
Having already experienced Malacañang’s largesse in the impeachment of former Supreme Court Chief Justice Renato Corona, the members of Congress figured to collect a bigger “compensation package” for approving the BBL.
The prolonged haggling over the amount of loot is too shameful to contemplate, so we will refrain from giving a blow-by-blow account of the bargaining.
It is better to summarize the matter quickly, and be done with this sordid tale.
According to one source from the House, Aquino offered a total of P1.5 billion worth of projects to be equally divided among the 150 congressmen who attended the Tuesday luncheon meeting, and other congressmen who will vote for the BBL.
The lawmakers declined Aquino’s offer and made their own counter-offer – a whopping P20 million in cash for each congressman for their vote.
The lawmakers had reached a consensus on the amount, believing they should get what the senators got for impeaching Corona. They should not be treated as second-class-bribees.
Aquino refused to agree to the demand of the lawmakers, and offered instead each congressman P5 million cash for their vote. This resulted in a brief stalemate between the Palace and the lawmakers.
The source claimed that in the end, Aquino agreed to a P5 million cash each for their vote favoring the passage of the BBL. But this is unconfirmed.
But then the president relented and returned to his original offer of P1.5 billion in projects, thereby creating an impasse.
The fruit of the Tuesday luncheon was quickly evident in the House session the following day.
The House failed to muster a quorum for Wednesday’s session because only 134 lawmakers, including those opposing the BBL, made it to the plenary.
With the failure of the House to pass the BBL as envisioned by the President, the measure now appears doomed.
If it is dead in the House, it is even more dead in the Senate, where the majority of senators have signed a compact declaring the BBl as unconstitutional, following the lead of Sen. Miriam Defensor-Santiago.
Still, Aquino-owned House leaders are not giving up. They are trying to manufacture a quorum even when it does not exist, by listing absent legislators as present.
House majority leader Neptali Gonzales believes that there is still a chance that the BBL would pass because he believes there are more House members in favor of the measure.
Malacañang for its part claims that the President was given assurance on the passage of the BBL at Tuesday’s meeting.
Presidential Communications Secretary Herminio Coloma Jr. told the media that President Aquino raised the looming threat of global terrorism as a key argument for passing the measure.
Time too short to tackle the issue.
Speaker Feliciano Belmonte and Senate President Franklin Drilon have boldly scheduled the referendum for the BBL’s approval on December 16, but the bill itself remains to be polished to permit voting on it by both the House and the Senate in plenary.
Congress’ last session day is December 16, after which it goes on Christmas break until January 18, 2016.
Given the circumstances, no one thinks there is a chance for the BBL’s passage this year.
It must wait till next year, or perhaps for the next Congress.
A prospect which in our view, is most welcome and pleasing. Let the sleeping Trojan horse lie where it is. Let Malaysia stew.