THE Senate will not be stampeded into passing the proposed Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) in a rush because lawmakers will have to make sure that the measure is “fair, inclusive and constitutional,” senators said on Tuesday.
Sen. Grace Poe, chairman of the Senate Committee on Public Order and Dangerous Drugs, said the chamber will not compromise a just BBL for the sake of expediency.
“The version of BBL that we should pass should not just be for expediting the process, it should also be inclusive, it should be just, constitutional and equitable. The accomplishment of this will last many lifetimes, it’s a legacy that we should not really waste just for the sake of political expediency,” Poe added.
The senator was reacting to reports that President Benigno Aquino 3rd wants the BBL passed before his term ends in 2016.
Acting Senate Minority Leader Vicente Sotto 3rd also vowed that he will not allow the BBL bill to be rushed.
He said the measure needs to be scrutinized to ensure that it will achieve its goal to provide lasting peace in Mindanao.
“We have been facing this problem for 40 years and we should not rush things. We want a lasting peace in Mindanao and not the peace found by the fallen 44 in a memorial park,” Sotto said.
The minority leader was referring to the 44 members of the Philippine National Police-Special Action Force (PNP-SAF) killed by the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) while on a mission to capture terrorist Zulkifli bin Hir alias Marwan in Mamasapano, Maguindanao on January 25.
Sen. Francis Escudero, meanwhile, said it is not advisable to set a timeframe within which the BBL bill should be passed because there are many issues that need to be answered in the aftermath of the bloody clash.
“Are we talking to the right people or dealing with the entire community of the BBL area and its residents?” Escudero said. “I once said that I have doubts if the MILF can truly represent the BBL area and its residents, including the indigenous peoples, the Christians and other groups also endemic to the area.”
He insisted that the tragic incident raised the need to scrutinize the MILF’s capability to supervise and control its ranks.
Sen. Alan Peter Cayetano said while every member of Congress is supportive of the peace process, he believes that legislators also want to ensure that the BBL will be a quality legislation that can really serve its purpose of providing lasting peace in Mindanao.
He added that Congress should choose quality over speed in dealing with the Bangsamoro law.
“We are not sure that BBL is really the solution in having peace in Mindanao that is why we need to scrutinize the measure thoroughly and carefully,” Cayetano said.
Sen. Ferdinand Marcos Jr., chairman of the committee on local government, admitted feeling some pressure but not because of Malacanang’s desire to fast-track passage of the BBL but in coming up with a good Bangsamoro law.
“My main concern is whether that’s going to fit in the timetables of other people, we cannot rush this [BBL]. This is very important that we need to get it right,” he said.
Marcos had vowed to conduct public hearings on the proposed BBL even if Congress is on a break in order to give lawmakers more time to study the measure and get inputs from stakeholders.
The Senate will adjourn on March 21 and sessions will resume on May 4. The chamber will adjourn sine die on June 11.
Marcos said even if the law is passed in June, the Commission on Elections (Comelec) will need at least six months to prepare for a plebiscite.
Sen. Joseph Victor Ejercito had expressed serious doubts on the chances of the BBL becoming a law during Aquino’s term.
“I also want to appeal to the members of the government peace panel and the MILF to stop blackmailing lawmakers that war may erupt if the BBL is not passed,” Ejercito said.
Majority of the members of the House of Representatives also do not agree to pass the BBL bill “untouched.”
In fact, Rep. Karlo Alexei Nograles of Davao said they may vote on the measure “provision by provision.”
In the Ugnayan sa Batasan media forum also on Tuesday, Nograles said they “foresee that they might have to [also]vote on it section by section.”
He, however, added that it is up to the chairman of the House panel on the BBL, Cagayan de Oro Rep. Rufus Rodriguez, to decide what procedure to adopt.
“Because there are different proponents, different congressmen, there are various inputs. I don’t know if that is the procedure that will be adopted by the chairman but there was a proposal that we do it that way. Because for example in Section 1, Congressman A wants this version while Congressman B wants that version, so if you cannot marry the two or three or four proposals then we’ll have to vote on it. That’s the rule, that’s how democracy works,” Nograles said.
But Rep. Celso Lobregat of Zamboanga said they may even vote on the measure “word by word.”
Lobregat added that at least 80 percent of congressmen will not agree to an “untouched” BBL.
“I think all of us congressmen and congresswomen are all for peace. All of us also want a law, a Bangsamoro law that we imagine will usher in new era of peace for Mindanao. So there is really no one blocking the passage of a law here. Except that we, each of us, have our different concerns with the present version of the law,” he explained.
Dead by June?
Rep. Romero Quimbo of Marikina City (Metro Manila) said Congress should have reached a decision by June, otherwise all discussions on the measure will be put to waste.
“ I personally think that if it is not passed before the June sine die break, that BBL is dead,” Quimbo told the Ugnayan sa Batasan media forum also on Tuesday.
The lawmaker said there is more than enough time to tackle the bill.
Quimbo, chairman of the House ways and means committee, added that a timeline is needed to put in place the institutional reforms.