SPEAKER Feliciano Belmonte Jr. on Monday said the House leadership can no longer guarantee the passage of the proposed Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) after some lawmakers withdrew their support for the measure in reaction to the killing of 44 police commandos by members of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) and Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) last January 25.
Congress had suspended hearings on the BBL while awaiting results of the investigations conducted by police and other panels.
With the huge erosion of support from majority of the lawmakers, Belmonte said passing the BBL looks difficult at this point.
“We are still trying, but it looks difficult. We hope [we can still approve the proposed law]. Right now, all we can do is to wait. They suspended the hearings because they are awaiting certain reports,” the Speaker said.
“It is very difficult to say how many will support it [at this point], but one thing is for sure.
The support for it has been somewhat eroded by the [Mamasapano] incident. What happened needs to be explained to us. However, we have to face that if we leave it [peace agreement with MILF]alone, incidents like this will continue to happen,” Belmonte told reporters.
On Sunday, Cagayan de Oro City Rep. Rufus Rodriguez, chairman of the 75-man ad hoc committee on the BBL, said he could not give any assurance that his panel would still convene to discuss the measure.
Rodriguez said his committee is now eyeing an “amended BBL” by addressing certain issues that could be questioned in terms of its constitutionality at the Supreme Court (SC).
“We are still very optimistic that an amended bill that will assure and safeguard the rights of all stakeholders will be in place so that [Mamasapano] will not happen again and that it can’t be abused by future Bangsamoro governments,” Rodriguez also told House reporters.
He explained that indefinite suspension of the hearings is needed to correct some flaws in the peace process.
“I think everyone is still for lasting peace through a law that will give autonomy and fiscal autonomy through the Bangsamoro. We can’t go back to war because it will be worse than if you don’t have the BBL. So that is why we are going through this (indefinite suspension of the BBL hearings),” Rodriguez said.
He added that the BBL hearings will remain suspended until the separate investigations conducted by the House Committee on Public Order and Safety and the Department of Justice on the Mamasapano carnage are completed.
President Benigno Aquino 3rd has expressed hopes that the Bangsamoro measure will be passed early this year.
Rep. Romero Quimbo of Marikina City (Metro Manila) said the killing of 44 SAF members will make it harder for lawmakers supporting the BBL to convince other congressmen to pass the bill.
“This [SAF killings] is a major flashpoint. Regardless of the lack of coordination…for you to pulverize the government troops in that way… that incident has not made it (BBL) easier to pass. But it would be hasty to say that the ‘no’ vote will already win. It just makes it more difficult to convince those who have been fence-sitting, whose number is quite substantial,” Quimbo, chairman of the House ways and means panel, said.
“Peace is never easy. It will take a lot of sacrifices and commitment. This is a major obstacle but I hope people can see through and put their eye on the prize,” he added.
Former Tawi Tawi governor Al Tillah said a Muslim and a Tausug were among the 44 police commandos killed in Maguindanao.
“As a Muslim, a Tausug and president of Parhimpunan Sin Islam (Islamic Society) it is with grief and anger to know that these young men’s lives were wasted while the proposed Bangsamoro Basic Law was being discussed in Congress,” Tillah said in a statement.
“There are more questions than answers. The Islamic Society wants an independent commission to investigate the incident, to go to the bottom of it and nothing less,” the former governor said.