AQUINO GOV’T HIT FOR PRESSURING CONGRESS TO OKAY HALF-BAKED BBL
• August 31, 2014
• Written by Ryan Ponce Pacpaco
• Published in Top Stories
HOUSE independent bloc leader and Leyte (1st District) Rep. Ferdinand Martin “FM” G. Romualdez yesterday scored the Aquino administration for pressuring Congress into seemingly approving a half-baked proposed Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) by eyeing a plebiscite for the new political entity to replace the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) by the end of the year.
Romualdez, a lawyer and president of the Philippine Constitution Association (Philconsa), pointed out that it is the duty of Congress to ensure that the BBL will pass the constitutionality test before the Supreme Court (SC).
He also stressed lawmakers should not heap the blame for the delayed approval of BBL because it was the Executive’s fault.
“Malacañang should not hostage lawmakers into passing the proposed law without the benefit of thorough scrutiny. It is expected that it will face a tough challenge during deliberations,” Romualdez stressed, adding that the government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front’s (MILF) failure to submit to Congress the final draft would mean “interruption” in the timetable of Congress to pass it.
“We are all for peace, but we should ensure that there will be no legal problems that may arise from the version that Congress may approve,” he explained.
Speaker Feliciano “Sonny” Belmonte Jr., Deputy Majority Leader and Citizens Battle against Corruption (Cibac) party-list Rep. Sherwin Tugna and Ifugao Rep. Teddy Brawner agreed with Romualdez, saying Malacañang should first submit the proposed BBL to the House of Representatives.
“Our main concern now is to start deliberating the measure. It would be better if they transmit the BBL draft to us now before asking for a plebiscite,” Belmonte stressed.
Tugna said the continued delay in the submission of the BBL would make it impossible for Congress to pass it immediately, adding that the Commission on Elections (Comelec) has budgetary concerns.
“For me, it is impossible because Congress has yet to scrutinize the bill. Also, we have to determine if Comelec has the budget to conduct a plebiscite in the ARMM,” Tugna said.
For his part, Baguilat said: “there’s still the budget which takes precedence over all other bills from now until October. Depending on when the draft BBL is filed, I anticipate we might be able to bring it to the plenary discussion only by mid-November,” Baguilat said.
“Presidential certification can fast track the process. But plebiscite by the end of December is likely not feasible with d draft BBL still hanging by November,” he stressed.
Like Romualdez, Baguilat said the BBL will face serious scrutiny from lawmakers.
“Realistically, I think middle of next year is more feasible. We still haven’t seen the draft much as we wish to author it. I expect it’s not gonna pass through the congressional gauntlet with ease. We might spend the remaining session days of the year debating on the provisions of the BBL in the committee level hoping to pass it before we adjourn for the holidays,” Baguilat said.
The Bangsamoro Transition Commission has yet to submit the draft bill to Congress aimed at creating the new Bangsamoro juridical entity replacing the ARMM.
This was the result of another peace talks being pushed by the government with the MILF, the country’s largest Muslim rebel group.
The Bangsamoro measure was an offshoot of the historic signing of the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro (CAB) by the Government Republic of the Philippines (GRP) and the MILF last March 27.