MALACAÑANG’S hope to see Congress pass the proposed Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) before it adjourns its session this week seems to have faded.
Its spokesman Edwin Lacierda in a news conference on Monday could no longer categorically say if Congress could still meet the original June 11 deadline for the measure’s approval.
Instead, Lacierda answered the question by referring to a statement of Senate President Franklin Drilon, who earlier said the soonest time that Congress could deliver the BBL would be in September.
“As to the timetable, I cannot speak for that now. While we certainly hope that the timetable would, that the BBL would come as early as we can, there are movements also in the [Senate] that are being discussed right now. So I cannot speak, for instance, on what’s happening right now in the [chamber],” he said in an interview.
“There was an interview this morning by Senate President Frank Drilon on some commitments made by Senator [Ferdinand] Marcos Jr. and [Drilon] is also confident that the BBL will be passed,” Lacierda added.
Drilon, in a television interview, said they will wait for Marcos’ substitute bill, which the senator said will address all legal, political, economic and social shortcomings in the current version of the BBL.
Marcos, in a privileged speech last week, junked the Palace version of the measure and said he will present a substitute measure during the recess, most probably in July.
“Senator Marcos will submit his committee report by July, which is his own deadline. Maybe the passing [of the BBL]will be a few months after that time,” Drilon said.
The Senate President added that the Senate might also ask the Commission on Elections [Comelec] to postpone the filing of certificates of candidacy (CoC) for the 2016 elections to make way for the plebiscite on the BBL.
“The filing of the CoC in October [stems from]automation. This is a rule imposed by the Comelec, not by law. We have to consult Comelec as to when they can really move the filing of the CoC,” he explained during the television interview.
Nevertheless, Lacierda said they remain committed to pass the BBL “because it’s our framework for peace and development in Muslim Mindanao and, therefore, we are committed to the BBL.”
Drilon “has mentioned that he wants the BBL passed as well. And again the whole idea of submitting the BBL to the legislative process is really go and see and debate on the merits of the BBL,” he explained.
Lacierda said the Palace respects the role of Congress and the legislative mill.
“But yes, [Drilon] has spoken and we believe that he will… Insofar as the Senate is concerned, he provides assistance for us in the passing of the BBL in the [chamber],” he added.
Besides the delay in the Senate, the BBL also met resistance from members of the House of Representatives, who noted in the plenary that the version of the BBL that was approved by the House ad hoc committee does not contain some salient features of the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro, particularly on the issue of decommissioning.
According to Lacierda, the decommissioning “was never intended to be part of the bill.”
“When you speak of normalization, you are talking about decommissioning,” he pointed out.
When pressed to provide an answer to the question of its self-imposed timetable, Lacierda pointed to the statement of Drilon.
“What is important, however, is that we are determined to make sure that the Bangsamoro Basic Law, which is our framework for development for peace, framework for development and peace in Mindanao, will push through. It is our commitment to the people of Mindanao that the status quo should be removed,” he said.
MILF: No more war
The Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) also on Monday said it will never resort to violence, as some sectors fear, if the draft BBL is not passed before June 11 as envisioned by Malacanang.
The biggest Muslim rebel group, which had taken the path of peace through negotiations, also assured Marcos that war has been rejected as an option in attaining peace in the Bangsamoro homeland.
In an editorial on the MILF website, the rebel group said it will continue its struggle for self-determination and justice through peaceful means.
Ghadzali Jaafar, vice chairman for political affairs of the MILF, reiterated their commitment to peace.
“We have conditioned our minds that there is no other way to peace but through a negotiated political solution acceptable to all,” Jaafar said.
“Mr. Senator, thank you for the reminder and discernment! Rest assured that we are on the same plane in the abhorrence of war. This is the reason that we agreed to talk peace since 1997 because, more than anybody else, we– and those soldiers who served in the battlefields in Mindanao–know exactly what war really is,” the MILF editorial said.
“People who are outside of the war zone can only imagine the horrors and devastations of war, but can never feel them. We did and we do,” it added.
The group said despite the debacle in the draft Bangsamoro law in both Houses of Congress, the MILF will remain in the right path it took 17 years ago, that is peace negotiations to attain what it deserves.
The Senate said it will probably pass the bill by September while the House will have until June 10 to approve on third and final reading House Bill 5811, the draft Basic Law for the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao. With PNA