• Palace rules out personal appeal for Bangsamoro law passage


    PRESIDENT Benigno Aquino 3rd won’t meet with his Congressional allies to appeal for the passage of the proposed law for the creation of the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region.

    Secretary Sonny Coloma of the Presidential Communications Operations Office made the stance on Monday amid the lack of quorum (majority attendance) of lawmakers in the 292-member House of Representatives, thus virtually derailing the proposed Bangsamoro measure’s passage.

    The House only holds its session from Mondays to Wednesdays at 4 pm, but it has always taken the lawmakers an hour later to show up in the plenary hall since the President delivered his final State of the Nation Address last July 27.

    And when the lawmakers are in, it only takes them one and a half hour before the quorum fizzles out and the session is adjourned. Under House rules, the House cannot deliberate a measure in the absence of a quorum.

    “We continue to work with the leadership and trust that they will act in the interest of our people. Buo ang tiwala ng Pangulo sa liderato ni Speaker [Feliciano] Belmonte [Jr.] (The Speaker has the President’s full trust and confidence),” Coloma said in a chance interview.

    “Noong tinawag po ang mga iyon [meeting para sa Sin Tax and Reproductive Health (RH) laws], iyon po ay para pagbotohan na [ang panukalang batas]. The President never dictated them on what to do,” Coloma responded when asked if there is such a need for the President to personally appeal for Bangsamoro passage before his Congressional allies.

    The proposed law for the creation of the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region is a product of the peace agreement inked between the government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front.

    The supposed Bangsamoro Autonomous Region would enjoy fiscal autonomy. The Bangsamoro Parliament would govern it and the Bangsamoro Region’s inhabitants would elect its officials.

    On top of receiving an annual bloc grant, which is 2.4 percent of the national tax collection, a Special Development Fund worth P17 billion (P7 billion initially and P2 billion for the next five years) and a P1-billion transition fund for the infrastructure construction and rehabilitation would also be allocated.

    A personal appeal for a pet measure is something the President did in the 15th Congress. It led to the passage of the equally divisive Sin Tax and RH laws that were both pending before Congress for around two decades before its passage in 2012 and 2013, respectively.

    The pending Bangsamoro measure is under period of debates, but only two lawmakers have quizzed Rep. Rufus Rodriguez of Cagayan de Oro about the substitute Bangsamoro bill.

    Last week, other interpellators in the list to question the measure were nowhere to be found in the plenary.



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