‘People, your Congress has returned to you’


On assuming the presidency of Czechoslovakia on New Year’s Day, 1990, after the long night of communism, the playwright-turned-politician Vaclav Havel told his countrymen:

“Freedom and democracy require everyone to participate and thus to share responsibility.

“If we realize this, then all the horrors that the new Czechoslovak democracy has inherited will cease to appear horrific. If we realize this, hope will return to our hearts.

“My people, your government has returned to you.”

I have this fantasy that on Thursday, June 11, when the 16th Congress adjourns its regular session, our senators and representatives will be telling our people and our country something similar to what Havel said.

They will say to us, “Fellow countrymen, your congress has returned to you.” Kabayan broadcaster Noli de Castro will translate it to Filipino this way: “Bayan, ang iyong Kongreso ay bumalik sa yo.”

The image of a return is fitting because it is Congress that has strayed away from the people, not the other way around.

Our legislators will mean every word, because on June 11, this country and our people will learn that Congress did not pass the dreaded and detested Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) as President Aquino had ordered. The legislature has not exactly said “No” yet; it has just refused to be stampeded into approval of the bill, without thorough review and public consultations and debate.

Congressional refusal essentially means that our beautiful archipelago of 7,200 islands will remain intact and whole. And our republic will remain one and indivisible.

It’s a development that probably calls for the pealing of bells, perhaps even a Te Deum Mass – but that would be rubbing salt on the setback of the Bangsamoro project.

Better to just mark the moment with a big sigh of relief and a prayer of thanks.
BBL loses ground
How did this happy event come about? What happened to the much-denounced BBL railroad?

The air in the BBL balloon oozed out in a hurry when President Aquino abandoned his pressure tactics on Congress, and hied away to Japan for a four-day state visit. That left the ready-and-willing-to-be-corrupted members of the House looking abandoned and bewildered. That meant Aquino was running away from the proposed reality-TV meeting between the president and the senators. The nation will not see him thinking seriously, after all.

As a result, the BBL is now in ICU. The House majority leader, Neptali Gonzalez, has confessed to the media that the house leadership is no longer sure they have the numbers to pass the BBL, despite the aggressive lobby from the Palace and the supposed pork barrel incentives for every vote in favor of the bill.

In the Senate, the situation is grimmer. Senate President Franklin Drilon threw in the towel when he declared that the leadership would now look toward passing the law instead in October. But even that, says Sen. Chiz Escudero may be a stretch. Congress has to do much, much more to make the bill acceptable to both houses of Congress.

Congressman Gonzalez says those opposing the bill need only to absent themselves from the voting at the plenary to defeat the bill. House members opposing the BBL have indicated they will question the quorum, an apparent impossibility now.

Gonzalez opined that the BBL is more difficult to pass than the Reproductive Health bill which was shelved and resurrected several times before it was finally approved. This is a huge admission.

Another difficulty for the House leadership is how to limit the discussions and period of amendments.

“We still don’t know the parliamentary play,” Gonzalez said.

BBL railroad like MRT and LRT
Concerning the BBL railroad, it turns out that the administration does not know how to operate it more efficiently than the MRT and LRT systems. Like Metro commuters, prospective bribees do not know whether the train and the gravy will ever come.

Some congressional leaders, like House Speaker Feliciano Belmonte and Rep. Elpidio Barzaga, have taken to boasting that they would resign from Congress if anyone can produce any evidence of bribery by the President.

That may be foolhardy. There are those in the media, the left and civil society, who are treating the boast as some sort of bounty. They will look for evidence and whistleblowers to prove bribery, so that Congress will be rid of these scalawags.

As defeat of the BBL looks inevitable, the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) has turned to shrill propaganda and threats. It will not accept a BBL with major revisions from the draft submitted by the Palace.

Insofar as they are concerned, they got a ‘legislated agreement,’ when President Aquino signed the Comprehensive Agreeement on the Bangsamoro (CAB) with the MILF. Say what they like, the decision is not in Aquino’s hands but in Congress.

The MILF itself is experiencing dissent within its ranks. There is an unconfirmed report that some 85 top MILF commanders have denounced the leadership of MILF chairman Murad Ebrahim for forging a “doubtful” peace deal with the government.

Repairing the broken branch
As these developments have gathered pace, there is a real sense that Congress is moving at last to right itself. No one in there likes my characterization of it as a broken branch of the government. They like even less the idea that it is just a servant and punching bag of the presidency.

Some legislator-friends assure me that the needed repair is now underway. The 16th Congress may surprise us yet, before it makes its exit for the 2016 campaign and elections.

I tell them that the BBL which threatened to bury this Congress in infamy could paradoxically become the instrument for its salvation. If Congress decisively moves to reject the BBL and upholds what is right and constitutional.

Politics is all about opportunity and what you do with it. Timing is everything. What once seemed impossible can suddenly become possible. What matters is that leaders are able to seize the moment when opportunity comes.

That moment has come in the battle over the Bangsamoro. The wonder is that there are many legislators — apart from concerned citizens and journalists — who are eager to take up the challenge of forging a better deal for Mindanao and the nation.



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  1. brandogandanghari on

    BBL is the FINAL AQUINO-COJUANGCO CURSE in this God forsaken country. Thanks to BBM (sen Marcos), the yellow curse did not succeed in dividing this country.

  2. The time is now for congress to redeemed itself from the bastardization done by malacanang to this institution today. The congressmen should vote the BBL according to the wishes of the people they served in their district. And most if not all of their constituents reject this BBL.

  3. I still would go on the path to review the ARMM by all stakeholders. It the same legacy of reaching a peaceful co-existence…As the word implies “autonomous region”, there is a calibrated independency! If you correct the mistakes in the ARMM that leads to peace…and it is a legacy as those involve showed political will to make it happen. Because when the BBL is passed…”nignas cogon”…or “moro-moro lang uli”…implementation will be chaotic! There will still be disgrutled groups! Our politicians have poor continuity tract record. BBL have many opposition…who will finish it…the MILF?? There will be in-fighting within! But through it all, if the MILF wants peace…have the patience to avoid arms struggle! Like they say…to eat an elephant start with one piece at a time! But start eating it in one area at a time…yes! eating at a time, but this time I will start over here..which is the BBL! There is mis-alginment towards the goal!

  4. genesisbughaw on

    The Providence of God

    14Whoever seeks God must accept discipline;*

    and whoever resorts to him obtains an answer.

    15Whoever seeks the law will master it,

    but the hypocrite will be ensnared by it.

    16Whoever fears the LORD will understand what is right,
    and out of obscurity he will draw forth a course of action.

    Our Judges recite every Monday morning, reads;

    “Isang bansang nasa Kalinga ng Diyos, buo at di mahahati na may Katarungan at Kalayaan para sa lahat”


    -Northern Star

  5. Probably they can claim the K to 12, if it flies,
    as the legacy of this administration.

    At this point it looks like not all angles were considered and that
    there remain a number of unresolved complications !

    Haste makes waste ! In the DOTC and DILG it is the opposite,
    “Teka,teka” does not work either !

  6. Can you imagine any muslim middle east country giving up part of their land to christians. No of course you cant & neither can i. Dont give up your land now to a different religion, in fact not to anyone. It will cause you trouble in the future. Trouble that ordinary people like us cant even think of & thats why we need clever politicians to think of these things for us.
    These people who want seperation should be told you were born in the philippines & where you were born is a part of the philippines. If you dont like that then leave the philippines dont ask for a piece of it.
    I dont know why pnoy & others are so in favour of it.

  7. Cres Malifier on

    The sign of this is if Congress right now kills the move of PNoy and LP loyalists to get him to run for reelection!!!!

  8. sonny dela cruz on

    The House of Representatives are in the Lower Chamber because they are mostly in the lower class because they are thinking always of the PORK than serving the people and the country. See what happened when they voted for the BBL? The Senate is in the Upper Chamber because very few are waiting for the PORK, only those DEAD BEAT Senators that you know of. The Senate is scrutinizing the legality of the BBL, to be sure LASTING PEACE in Mindanao will prevail. The Senators are in the right direction and HOPE no railroading of the BBL as the President wants.

  9. these recent developments on BBL is heaven sent… the prayers of many to derail passage of BBL was answered by God and rejected the folly of noynoy and his gang of cohorts! yet, the filipino people still need to be vigilant since noynoy, as stubborn as he is, will not give up easily and may pull another hat trickery as last ditch!

  10. Alejo Rosete on


    bs aquino and company should resign
    to give way to the reformation of the government
    as proposed by the “Lipa City Agreement”.



  11. P.Akialamiro on

    While our congress is ‘returning’ to us, the people, let us always remember those who are now trying to ‘tow the line’, but were insistent on approving the BBL as negotiated by the BS Aquino government. Notably, Belmonte, Drilon. Barzaga, etc. I just can’t imagine how the country and its government will be if what Aquino and his minions wanted happened, as far as the BBL is concerned, in its present form. At best, they would have done a great disservice to the Filipino people and, at worst, treason.

    To counteract his setback on the BBL, Pres. B S Aquno III (or The Last) will proboably ‘brag’ about the highest honors conferred upon him by the Japanese government. But, my question is: Who would hesitate to confer such honor when he is spending so much of the people’s money to buy 10 speedboats from Japan? I wonder what are the considerations in confirming such honor to a head of state?

    As everyone else, only the devil denounces peace. But, for the protection of everyone, the BBL should be one that would be mutually beneficial to the Philippine Government and the ‘Bangsamoro’, with the end in view of accelerating progress for both sides, in peace and harmony.

    Right on, Sen. Ferndinand R. Marcos, Jr.!

  12. Most of the credit goes to the sustained criticism and enlightenment from you, Bobi Tiglao. Mr Tatad, Mr Saludo, Jojo Robles, The Daily Tribune Jerry Ocampo’s Blog Fr. R Aquino and so many others . Our country owes you. The SAF 44 did not die in vain. God bless the Philippines !

    • P.Akialamiro on

      The Manila Times should be steadfast in exposing the anomalies in the government, whatever be the party affiliation, and continue in informing the people on the pros and cons of decisions taken by the government, especially on important issues like the BBL.