The House of Representatives will not approve the proposed Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) this year, Speaker Feliciano Belmonte Jr. said on Thursday.
Belmonte was referring to the proposed enabling law that would concretize a peace agreement between the government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF).
The draft law calls for the creation of a Bangsamoro Autonomous Region (BAR) replacing the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao.
The BAR would enjoy fiscal autonomy and would be governed by a parliament.
The Speaker noted that the best-case scenario would be the termination of the period of interpellation on the Bangsamoro measure within next week wherein the House will be holding sessions from Monday to Wednesday before adjourning for the Christmas break.
“Hindi rin… hindi puwede sa tingin ko [I don’t think we can approve it on second reading]. There are still people lined up to interpellate, and we can’t prevent them from interpellating,” Belmonte told reporters.
“We see the termination of the period of interpellation next week. There’s a very good chance that we will be able to do that because a couple of interpellators already withdrew since their questions have been asked, while some who have been interpellating for days have agreed to give others a chance,” he said.
Belmonte, however, clarified that the Bangsamoro measure is not the lone bill likely to be shelved for lack of time and the looming start of the campaign period for national candidates in February.
He said the Freedom of Information bill is also a likely casualty even if he has committed that the FOI measure would be passed during the Aquino administration.
The FOI bill mandates government agencies and public officials to disclose all information pertaining to official acts, transactions or decisions, as well as government research data used as a basis for policy development.
“I hate to be a liar. On FOI, we already know the real situation that there are people who need convincing. Anyway, everything’s chances are slim, with a few days to go for our session and a few days to go before the campaign period,” Belmonte said.
But for Akbayan party-list Rep. Angelina Ludovice Katoh, the passage of the Bangsamoro measure is needed to ensure protection for the human rights of Moros and lumad (indigenous people) in Mindanao and ending decades of war in Mindanao.
“The war in Mindanao has prevented our Moro and lumad brothers and sisters from exercising and fully enjoying their economic, socio-cultural and political rights. Future generations will point to this critical moment when we would have stood to ignore or advance the rights of our Moro and lumad brothers and sister. We cannot let them down,” Katoh, a native of Mindanao herself, said in a statement.
“Many of our fellow Filipinos in Luzon and Visayas say the violence or insurgency is localized in Mindanao whenever they have to assuage fears of their friends from abroad or people unfamiliar with the rebellion in Mindanao. If we call it a Mindanao problem, we have to accept that only a Mindanao solution, the Bangsamoro law, is sufficient to address it,” she added.
PNoy loses grip on Congress
President Benigno Aquino 3rd could no longer muster support from his allies in Congress and this may spell doom for his pet legislation, including the BBL, according to a political analyst.
Ramon Casiple of the Institute for Political and Electoral Reforms said lawmakers are only “playing” with Aquino, especially on the issue of the BBL which, according to him, is already in a precarious situation.
“The BBL is in danger. Lawmakers don’t like the BBL… They don’t want to touch it,” Casiple added.
He noted the failure of the House leadership to achieve quorum to pass important legislation despite Aquino’s plea.
Recently, the President had lunch with members of Congress to talk about the prospects of having the measure passed.
Casiple said Aquino’s only “hold” on lawmakers is the budget, which he controls as President.
“They don’t like to antagonize PNoy [Aquino]. As President, he controls the budget. The budget will [be]pass [ed],” he added.
The P3-trillion national budget for 2016 was approved on Wednesday.
Earlier, Communications Secretary Herminio Coloma Jr. expressed the belief that lawmakers’ response to the President’s call was “positive.”
“Let us wait for further developments,” he said.
The BBL was originally intended to be passed several months ago but the onset of the election season and “prejudices” against the measure derailed it.