House won’t pass BBL in time for Aquino’s last SONA

THE House of Representatives will not be able to pass the proposed Bangsamoro basic law (BBL) before the President gives his last State of the Nation Address (SONA) in July, a House leader said Monday.

In a press briefing, Majority Leader Neptali Gonzales II said the House leadership veered away from its original target of passing the bill on third and final reading by June 11.

Gonzales said the proposal by Minority Leader Ronaldo Zamora and approved by House and political party leaders was to end the period of interpellations on Wednesday and start the period of amendments when Congress comes back from its sine die adjournment after the President’s SONA.

President Aquino would have wanted to end his administration in 2016 with the Bangsamoro already having its own government.

Gonzales said session would start earlier than the usual 10 a.m. schedule on Wednesday to end the period of interpellations on this day. He added that there would be no session on Thursday.

Gonzales, who once said it would be “wishful thinking” to pass the BBL this week, said the House is relieved that it is now free from the pressure from Malacanang to pass the bill soon so that the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), the benefactor in the BBL, may run for the elections in 2016.

He said even if the bill is delayed that would not make a 2016 elections for the Bangsamoro possible, Congress may pass another bill that would allow the Bangsamoro polls after 2016 to elect officials for a shortened term until 2019, when it will undergo its first regular elections synchronized with the national elections as required for by law.

Gonzales also said the House leadership is open to removing the opt-in provision, which allows expansion of the Bangsamoro core territory upon a ratified petition, during the period of amendments if only to ease the opposition in the House.

Gonzales said at least 34 lawmakers have expressed their intention to interpellate the bill on the floor.

“In light of the revelation of Speaker that we are open na tanggalin ang opt-in provision… kung simply na ang opt-in provision ang kanilang beef, mawawala siguro sila sa listahan (ng interpellators),” Gonzales said.

The opt-in provision in the approved BBL version could dramatically expand the Bangsamoro territory in the fifth or 10th year after the passage of the bill in a petition of voters under areas contiguous to the Bangsamoro core territory.

Under Article 3, Section 3, of House Bill No. 4996, “any local government unit (LGU) or geographical area outside the territorial jurisdiction of the Bangsamoro, but which are contiguous to any of the component units of the Bangsamoro and within the area of autonomy identified in the 1976 Tripoli Agreement, may opt to be part of the Bangsamoro by filing a petition of at least 10 percent of the registered voters of the interested LGU or geographical area.”

The petition may be filed on the fifth or 10th year after the enactment of the Bangsamoro law. This is different from the original provision, which said contiguous or areas outside the Bangsamoro territory may apply to be part of the region at any time upon a petition of 10 percent of voters and approved in a plebiscite.

The BBL is expected to face rough passage due to supposedly unconstitutional provisions and the involvement of MILF forces in the Mamasapano incident last Jan. 25.

The bill seeks to create a more politically autonomous Bangsamoro region to implement the government peace deal with the MILF.

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