By Charissa Luci-Atienza
Leaders of the House of Representatives are hopeful the Bangsamoro Organic Law (BOC) will be ratified and will be subsequently signed by President Duterte on July 23.
Isabela Rep. Rodito Albano, who is part of the 28-man bicameral conference committee on the peace measure, and Southern Leyte Rep. Roger Mercado expressed hope that the BOL, which calls for the creation of a Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM) would be ratified by Congress and would be signed by President Duterte either before or during his third State of the Nation Address (SONA).
“We earnestly hope that the Bangsamoro Organic Law will be ratified and signed tomorrow,” Albano said in an interview.
Mercado said they are bound to ratify the Bangsamoro Basic Law. “We will ratify it,” he said.
Anak Mindanao party-list Rep. Amihilda Sangcopan, also a member of the bicameral conference committee on the BOL, expressed confidence about Congress’ ratification of the BOL and the signing of the law before President’s SONA.
“I am very much confident that the peace bill will be ratified Monday morning for President Duterte’s signature before his SONA,” she said.
Sangcopan said there is nothing unconstitutional with the final version of the BOL which the bicameral panel approved on Wednesday night.
“The BOL that we approved was not watered-down. The new Bangsamoro would have greater regional government, a parliament, fiscal autonomy, and justice system and that can withstand constitutional scrutiny before the Supreme Court (SC),” she said.
For his part, AKO BICOL party-list Rep. Rodel Batocabe, president of the House partylist coalition bloc, said, “Our bicameral members took a lot of time to fine tune a well-crafted compromise bill.”
Last week, House Majority Floor Leader and Ilocos Norte Rep. Rodolfo “Rudy” Fariñas said they will submit the bicameral report on the peace measure for ratification on Monday.
But, when asked about its scheduled ratification yesterday, the House leader said Malacañang is “still studying it.”
In a television interview, Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez earlier said they could ratify the BOL in the morning and send it to Malacañang by afternoon of July 23 for the President’s signature.
In a radio interview yesterday, House secretary general Cesar Strait Pareja said they expect the ratification of the bicameral conference committee report on the proposed Bangsamoro Organic Law when Congress convenes its Third Regular Session on Monday morning and the subsequent signing of the peace measure into law by the President in the afternoon.
“Naka-schedule sana ngayon during SONA, pero siyempre hinahantay rin natin yung final version dahil ia-approve pa dapat muna ito sa umaga ng both chambers. Pag nag-resume kami ng third regular session sa umaga, yun ang naka-schedule na isa sa mga gagawin, i-ratify. At pag na-ratify na yun, eh di handa na kami sa pirmahan para i-present ito sa Pangulo during SONA,” he said.
He also assured that all is set for President’s SONA which will be attended by former Presidents, members of judiciary and dignitaries.
“Naka-ready na, naghahanda kung ano man lahat ng puwedeng gawin,” he said, as the House is set to roll down its red carpet for 3,000 guests.
Except for Duterte’s predecessor, former President Benigno Aquino III, other former presidents, including Joseph Estrada, Fidel Ramos, and Gloria Macapagal Arroyo confirmed their attendance for Duterte’s Third SONA.
Since Friday, the House and Senate Legislative Security Bureaus, in close coordination with the Presidential Security Group (PSG), started the lockdown at the House for security and sanitation purposes, according to Pareja.
House sergeant-at-arms Gen. Roland Detabali, chairman of the Task Force SONA 2018 committee on security and presidential honors, said they have considered all possible scenarios that might happen during the SONA – from bombings, fires and chemical attacks.
Citing that security preparations include land and air assets, he said soldiers from specialized units of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP), the Philippine National Police’s (PNP) Special Action Force (SAF) and joint special operations groups, including the Light Reaction company, Philippine Navy special units sent to Marawi City last year are also now part of the contingency force.
Detabali said they also considered other threats arising from modern terrorism hence, the security groups have additional capability and people with special equipment.
He added consequence management groups like evacuation teams, fire trucks and the Office of the Civil Defense (OCD) personnel are also part of the contingency force for other eventualities like fire and earthquake.
Detabali said also included in security preparations electronic paneling, canine and thorough inspection which will be maintained until after the SONA.