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Speaker vows to pass BBL before end of the month

Government peace panel head Miriam Coronel-Ferrer chats with MILF chief negotiator Mohager Iqbal during the opening of the exhibit of the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process at the House of Representatives yesterday. Michael Varcas

MANILA, Philippines - Leaders of the House of Representatives said yesterday they would exert all efforts to pass the proposed Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL), which seeks to create a new autonomous region in Mindanao, before the end of the month.

Speaker Feliciano Belmonte Jr. and Cagayan de Oro Rep. Rufus Rodriguez, chairman of the ad hoc committee that drafted the proposed law, issued the statement during the opening of the exhibit of the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process in the House of Representatives.

“A lot of people see this (BBL) as solving the persistent and recurring conflict in Mindanao. This is the best solution we have at this time. Despite the fact that time is short, we are giving this our best shot,” Belmonte told reporters.

He appealed to his colleagues to be present during plenary sessions so that the deliberations on the BBL can continue and be voted upon before the end of the month.

“Let’s all vote on it (BBL). Even if you’re against it, just vote… but let’s all be there,” he said.

Addressing lawmakers and other concerned sectors, Belmonte said the country is now in “very interesting times and every other critical piece of legislation must be backed by the support of the general public.”

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“Unfortunately, camps who oppose the passage of the BBL sow misinformation to gain unfair public support. Myths are crafted to erode the momentum of the proposed bill, raising questions on constitutionality and distribution of power and resources,” he said.

Rodriguez said the House will ensure that it will not pass a BBL that is not legally sound or unconstitutional, but a version that will be inclusive enough to integrate the needs and concerns of all.

Moro Islamic Liberation Front chief negotiator Mohaquer Iqbal said he believes the issue of lack of quorum in the House is just a “fleeting problem.”

“I still trust in the collective wisdom of Congress to pass the BBL,” Iqbal said at the event.

Meanwhile, Zamboanga City Rep. Celso Lobregat said the Department of National Defense (DND) and the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) have no knowledge of the reported normalization fund that was included in the peace agreement forged with the MILF.– With Roel Pareño

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