Palace optimistic of BBL passage this year

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Malacañang is optimistic Congress will pass the proposed Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) this year, as the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) expressed disappointment over the slow progress of the measure allowing greater autonomy in Muslim Mindanao.

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In a news conference, Presidential Legislative Liaison Office chief Adelino Sitoy said the Palace expected House Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez and Senate President Aquilino Pimentel 3rd to sponsor the BBL in Congress.

“Considering that we submitted a draft bill to the Speaker himself and to the Senate President, unless they opt to find another author, we would expect them to author the bill,” Sitoy told reporters.

“Before the year ends, we hope to have the bill already on second or third reading,” he added.

‘Not easy picking’

This came as the MILF expressed frustration anew over the supposed lack of attention on the measure from Congress, which is dominated by Duterte’s allies.

In an editorial published last September 16, the MILF lamented that the “recent development of the BBL is not encouraging. The government is not pushing it in Congress.”

The MILF feared the BBL might be sidelined to give way to the planned shift to a federal system of government.

“Or it may not come at all during the term of President Duterte because constitutional change, which will surely face fierce resistance from those who are enjoying and benefiting from the highly centralized status quo, is hard to realize. It is not for easy picking,” the MILF said in its opinion piece.

Certification vowed

Duterte had said he would certify the BBL, presented to Malacañang on July 17 by the Bangsamoro Transition Commission, as urgent.

Palace spokesman Ernesto Abella said Duterte agreed to certify as urgent the BBL during the third Legislative-Executive Development Advisory Council meeting on Wednesday, September 20.

“In the course of the discussion, the President agreed to certify as urgent the proposed measures on the BBL,” he said.

The BBL, the measure that would implement the 2014 peace deal between the government and the MILF, was bypassed by the previous Congress amid claims that some of its provisions were unconstitutional.

The passage of the bill, one of the priorities of the previous Aquino administration, was also hampered by the backlash over the botched Mamasapano counter-terrorism operation in Maguindanao, which left 44 police commandos dead in January 2015.

The BBL will form a new Bangsamoro political entity, replacing the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao, with greater economic and political powers.

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