Palace expects House plenary debates on BBL by May 4

Louis Bacani (The Philippine Star) - February 24, 2015 - 5:31pm

MANILA, Philippines - Malacañang expects the controversial Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) to soon hurdle the committee level at the House of Representatives even if it has been shelved following the bloody Mamasapano incident.

Communications Secretary Herminio Coloma Jr. said President Aquino reminded House leaders in their meeting on Monday that the proposed BBL should be passed in a timely manner.

"Uulitin natin, tuloy na tuloy ito. There is not a better alternative for the rest of the country," Coloma quoted Aquino's statement to the lawmakers.

Coloma said the BBL should be enacted into law immediately to pave the way for the holding of the Bangsamoro plebiscite and to give the Bangsamoro Transition Authority sufficient time to show that it is better than the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM).

"Sa tingin ko ang sinasabi lang naman ng Pangulo dito, kung naniniwala talaga tayo sa prosesong kapayapaan at kung naniniwala tayo na maaaring maging instrumento para sa pagtamo ng kapayapaan itong BBL, unawain natin na kailangan nitong maipasa sa lalong madaling panahon," Coloma said.

Responding to Aquino, Cagayan de Oro Rep. Rufus Rodriguez said the BBL should be tackled in the House plenary when Congress resumes its session on May 4.

Rodriguez is the chair of the House ad hoc committee on the BBL.

"Ang sabi niya (Rodriguez), 'On May 4, when we resume dapat plenary na.' Ang pagkaunawa ko doon there could be a reasonable expectation or an aspiration na dito sa intervening period between now and May 4 magagawa na 'yung nararapat para ihanda 'yung BBL na 'yon for plenary discussion or plenary voting," Coloma said in a press briefing.

Congress will be on recess from March 20 to May 3. It will resume session on May 4 and will adjourn again on June 11.

'Solons support BBL'

The BBL will serve as the enabling law for the proposed Bangsamoro entity that would replace the ARMM. It is a result of the comprehensive peace agreement signed by the government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) last year.

The measure will specify the power and wealth-sharing arrangements between the national government and the Bangsamoro region.

The House panel on the BBL has indefinitely suspended its proceedings until after the various government probes on the fatal Mamasapano encounter are completed.

The deaths of 44 police commandos in the hands of the MILF combatants and its breakaway group, the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters, have cast doubts on the peace process and on the sincerity of the rebels.

After the repeated calls to lawmakers not to abandon the BBL, Aquino met with House leaders on Monday to discuss the Mamasapano incident and its implications on the Bangsamoro peace process.

During the meeting with Aquino, Coloma said many of the lawmakers expressed their support to the BBL despite the Mamasapano tragedy.

"Sa akin pong nasaksihan, nandoon naman ‘yung pagiging bukas nila, 'yung kahandaan nila para talakayin ito," Coloma said.

"Marami naman din sa kanila ang nagpahayag na naniniwala sila at sumusuporta sila sa prosesong pangkapayapaan," he added.

Besides Rodriquez, present during the meeting were House Speaker Feliciano Belmonte Jr., Majority Leader Neptali Gonzales II and Minority Leader Ronaldo Zamora.

Also in attendance were former senior military and PNP officers who are now House members: Samuel Pagdilao, Romeo Acop, Leopoldo Bataoil, Gary Alejano and Ashley Acedillo.

Also present were the chairpersons of the House committees that conducted hearings last week: Jeffrey Ferrer of the committee on public order and safety, and Jim Hataman Salliman of the committee on peace, reconciliation and unity.

RELATED: Marcos to MILF: Be open-minded to BBL amendments

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