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Congressmen hold executive session to fine-tune consolidated BBL bill

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By Ben Rosario

Heeding President Duterte’s call to prioritize the proposed Bangsamoro Basic Law, congressmen cut short their summer vacation, went back to work and held an executive session to fine-tune a consolidated BBL bill.

CIRCUMSPECT – Muslim members of the audience read through a booklet explaining the proposed Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) during a hearing conducted at the Senate in Pasay City yesterday. (Jansen Romero)

CIRCUMSPECT – Muslim members of the audience read through a booklet explaining the proposed Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) during a hearing conducted at the Senate in Pasay City. (Jansen Romero)

This developed as the Anak Mindanao Partylist represented by Rep. Amihilda Sangcopan warned that it will reject a “diluted and watered down BBL.”

“Amin will say “no to” diluted and watered-down BBL, for if the BBL will be designed to fail the gains of the previous peace agreements, then better no BBL at all,” Amin declared.

The House committees on local governments, on peace, reconciliation and unity and on Muslim affairs met today to vote on individual amendments to the draft substitute bill entitled “An Act Providing for th eBasic Law for the Bangsamoro and Abolishing the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao.”

The proposed substitute bill seeks to expand the coverage of Republic Act 6734 or the Organic Act for the ARMM. It will consolidate four different BBL proposals filed by Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez; Deputy Speaker Bai Sandra Sinsuat A. Sema and Representatives Gloria Macapagal Arroyo (PDP-Laban, Pampanga); Mohammad Khalid Q. Dimaporo (NPC, Lanao del Norte); Mauyag Papandayan Jr. (PDP-Laban, Lanao del Sur); Ruby M. Sahali (LP, Tawi-tawi) and Wilter Wee Palma II (NP, Zamboanga Sibugay).

Before resuming deliberations today, the joint panel had been conducting executive sessions to debate on sensitive provisions of the measure, particularly proposals that could bring about constitutional contest in the future.

Jointly chaired by Representatives Pedro Acharon Jr. (NPC, South Cotabato); committee on Muslim Affairs headed by Mauyag Papandayan Jr. (PDP-Laban, Lanao del Sur); and special committee on peace, reconciliation and unity under Ruby Sahali (NPC, Tawi-tawi), the panel eyes approval of a consolidated bill as soon as Congress resumes session on May 15.

If finally presented on first reading by May 15, the House will have at least until May 30 to pass the measure.

The May 30 target was sought by Duterte during a recent meeting with Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez, Senate President Aquilino Pimentel III/ Senate Majority Leader Vicente Sotto III and Sen. Manny Pacquiao.

Meanwhile, Amin urged congress to “respect all peace agreements” and adopt the BBL version of the Bangsamoro Transition Commission.

“The BTC version of the BBL clearly holds the meaningful aspiration of the Bangsamoro people in the quest for the Right to self-determination. Thus our call to each and everyone to respect with high regard the substance of those agreements throught the provisions of the BBL,” said Amin, through Sangcopan.

“Justly address the concern and welfare of the bona fide, qualified and permanent workers in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM),” the organization stated.

It added: “And finally, to maintain the stance of peace as the only option to address just and lasting peace in Mindanao and the entire country.”

Earlier, the Visayan Bloc, an organization of 42 congressmen representing congressional districts and partylist groups in the Visayas, Monday declared its support for the swift passage of the Bangsamoro Basic Law “that is consistent with the provisions of the Constitution.”

Headed by lead convenor and Negros Occidental Rep. Alfredo “Albee” Benitez, the Visayan Bloc issued its manifesto of support a day after President Rodrigo Duterte met with congressional leaders and officials of various Muslim organizations to discuss the legislative proposal that is widely seen as the formula that will put an end to the secessionist war in the south.

“We, the members of the Visayan Bloc of the House of Representatives, express our support for the immediate passage of a Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) that is consistent with the provisions of the Constitution,” the Visayan solon said.

“We firmly believe that the BBL will pave the way for long-lasting peace and socio-economic development in the proposed Bangsamoro region by allowing the establishment of a regional government that is anchored on the Bangsamoro identity,” read the manifesto.

The lawmakers added: “It is high time that we give our fellow Filipinos in the said region an opportunity for self-governance and to fully recognize their needs and aspirations.”

Benitez said the multiparty Visayan Bloc also appealed to their Lower House colleagues to “expedite and support the immediate passage” of the measure.

The special joint congressional panel on the Bangsamoro Basic Law voted to endorse the enactment of a BBL measure that contained en toto the proposal of the Bangsamoro Transition Commision authored by Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez and other House leaders.

In a voting that followed an executive session, the Committees on Peace, Reconciliation and Unity and on Muslim Affairs backed the adoption of House Bill 6475 or the BTC proposal, which also has the support of Muslim congressmen.

On the other hand, a huge majority of members of the House Committee on Local Government chaired by South Cotabato Rep. Pedro Acharon thumbed down the motion to adopt the BTC bill.

It was Deputy Speaker and Maguindanao Rep. Bai Sandra Sema who moved for the adoptioin of the BTC bill filed by Alvarez and several House leaders.

The omnibus adoption of the Alvarez proposal was sought by Semate as the special joint panel that was created purposely for the BBL measure is being pressed to submit a consolidated bill by May 15.

Members of the joint panel cut short their summer break to act on the bill and were deliberating on the individual amendments for th edraft substitute proposal when Sema presented the motion.

Four different bills have been filed, prompting the House leadership to task the special joint panel to consolidate it.

The special joint committee started deliberating on the measures on December 6, 2017, spent over three months deliberating to come out with a consolidated version only to pick out one- the Alvarez-BTC proposal.

Among the bills rejected was House Bill 092 authored by Sema. This contained the version of the 16th Congress that was authored by then Speaker Feliciano Belmonte Jr.

HB 6263 authored by Lanao del Norte Rep. Khalid Dimaporo is a “solo or stand alone”bill that the author said was purposely filed “to place on record the perspective of Lanao del Norte.

Former president and now Pampanga Rep.Gloria Macapagal Arroyo said she filed HB 6121 which was “an exact copy of the bill that was approved on third and final reading in the Senate.”

Arroyo decided to withdraw her bill.

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