MANILA -- The Bangsamoro basic law will be passed by the end of 2014.
The proposed law, which will be submitted to Congress by the Bangsamoro Transition Commission to implement the Bangsamoro peace agreement of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) and the government, has been designated as Congress' top priority after congressional leaders met to thresh out their common legislative agenda.
Senate President Franklin Drilon said the House and the Senate "will be working closely together in this Congress in order that all priority legislation will be enacted and passed. On top of our list is the Bangsamoro basic law which both Houses committed to before the year is over."
Senate President Pro-Tempore Ralph Recto also said, "The most important is the Bangsamoro, [by] December 2014... We know we have to pass the basic law but it doesn't mean it's gonna be that version right away. Depending on what comes out, both Houses will take a look at it."
Recto seems prepared for any constitutional challenges. "You cannot prevent any of these... We don't know yet what the basic law will be. We're only beginning to look at the agreement. After that, we will take a look at the basic law they want Congress to pass. We can't go ahead of ourselves."
The proposed law that will recreate the Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) is expected during the summer.
"Sa Bangsamoro, assuming they can submitin 45 days, we're giving ourselves till the end of the year [to pass it]. We're not guaranteeing all annexes and parameters will be passed. We will try, as long as walang unconstitutional and it's a fair deal for all Filipinos," Senate Majority Leader Alan Peter Cayetano said.
He said he also believes there is time for Congress to enact its priority laws even before the start of the 2016 presidential campaign.
"Yung politics can be negative or positive. The presidential election can work against us, as in maraming mamulitika, walang mapasa. Pwede ring may gusto mag-beef ng nagawa, lalo na ang presidentiables, halimbawa land use, boundaries ng forest, reforms sa Customs," he said.
Meanwhile, Marikina Rep. Miro Quimbo listed the other priorities:
Freedom of Information (FOI),
Build Operate Transfer (BOT) law amendment,
regulation of water utilities,
Philippine Ports Authority (PPA) and Maritime Industry Authority (MARINA) charter amendment,
Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP) charter,
Customs Modernization and Tariffs Act (CMTA),
mining tax increase,
Electric Power Industry Reform Act (EPIRA) amendment,
promotion of micro enterprise,
national student loan program,
children in conflict,
energy efficiency and conservation act,
open high school system for out-of-school youth, ladderized education,
emergency management response agency,
barangay officials welfare act,
13th month pay tax exemption increase,
picture-based health warning on cigarettes,
information and communication technology (ICT), and Sandiganbayan law amendment.
Cayetano said: "There are more than 30 bills, also in preparation for the Legislative Executive Development Advisory Council (LEDAC), where the discussion won't be one-sided. We don't want the Palace telling us what they want. We will also be telling, communicating to Malacañang the sentiments of House and Senate."
Drilon, however, said that a proposed five-year extension of the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Law is not among those discussed as a priority.
"We did not discuss that. We'll be looking at bills that's also in the list of LEDAC, measures we passed in the last Congress vetoed by executive. We will review why it was vetoed and address... We agreed to meet on a regular basis. The next is on March 2nd," he said.
House Speaker Sonny Belmonte said the meeting was done ahead of the LEDAC, which has yet to be scheduled by the Palace.
"Talagang gustong-gusto naming gawin na magkausapan kami palagi on a regular basis para maging really productive. Hindi yung iba ang pinasa nila, iba ang pinasa namin. We have hard time having a common agenda. Ngayon, ang kagandahan nito, alam namin ano gusto ng Senado. Nalalaman nila ano sa amin. We can get things done."
The lawmakers hope the meeting will become a monthly practice, with the next meeting of the congressional leaders set for March 2.
Belmonte said, "I think yes there's a tentative agreement. We should get together at least once every month to review what we have done and discuss the status of things and what could be fast-tracked, what's acceptable to the other chamber. That's very good in terms of a more productive Congress. This is really Congress talking, 2 chambers talking to each other. Once we agree on something, once it has become act of the 2, aakyat sa Malacañang."