Palace hopes to submit Bangsamoro Law to Congress in May

By Delon Porcalla, The Philippine Star

Posted at Apr 14 2014 09:58 AM | Updated as of Apr 14 2014 05:58 PM

MANILA - Malacañang is hopeful the draft Bangsamoro Basic Law will be submitted to Congress in time for its reopening on the first week of May so it could be taken up by President Aquino when he delivers his fifth State of the Nation Address this July.

“Hopefully, review will have been completed by May 5 and approved by the President,” Secretary Herminio Coloma Jr. told dzRB yesterday.

Aquino is expected to certify the proposed law as an “urgent” administration measure that will be submitted to the Senate and the House of Representatives for their consideration and passage at the soonest possible time.

The Bangsamoro Basic Law, as enacted by Congress, shall serve as the organic act for the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) provided for in the 1987 Constitution, according to chief government negotiator Miriam Coronel-Ferrer.

The Bangsamoro political entity will replace the five provinces under ARMM.

The 15 members of the Bangsamoro Transition Commission are expected to submit today to Aquino the draft law. Members of Aquino’s legal team will then evaluate and give it to the President for his approval before it is sent to Congress.

Coloma is confident the proposed law can withstand judicial scrutiny.

He said Aquino had been very clear in his instructions that it should be within the confines of the 1987 Constitution and doable.

“Those were the most important guidelines of the President,” Coloma said.

Ad hoc committee proposed

The leadership of the House of Representatives is looking at the possibility of forming an ad hoc or super committee that will scrutinize the proposed Bangsamoro Basic Law to ensure a speedy and thorough deliberation and ensure its passage in time for scheduled holding of a plebiscite on the new autonomous region in Mindanao later this year, lawmakers said yesterday.

Basilan Rep. Jim Hataman-Salliman and Sulu Rep. Tupay Loong, in separate interviews said they got word from Speaker Feliciano Belmonte Jr. that at least five House panels are eyed to jointly conduct the public hearings on the proposed Bangsamoro law.

The lawmakers said among the House bodies that will likely compose the super committee are the special committee on peace, reconciliation and unity, chaired by Salliman; and the committees on Muslim affairs, Mindanao affairs, local governments, and national defense and security.

Loong, who chairs the Muslim affairs committee, said it was possible that other House panels may be included in the ad hoc committee.

Also being worked out is the designation of the chairperson, the venue of the hearings due to the expected large number of its members, and resource persons to be invited.

“The general understanding is that the President will certify the Bangsamoro Basic Law as urgent, and we at the House will work on it swiftly through this ad hoc committee without having to sacrifice the quality of the law and ensure that there will be no constitutional questions that will hobble it,” Salliman told The STAR.

“Many of us lawmakers continue to seek assurance from the transition commission to make sure that there will be no unconstitutional provisions so the deliberations in the House won’t be contentious,” he said.

Salliman said lawmakers are anticipating the filing of the document in the House when Congress resumes session next month to allow the legislative chamber to at least organize the ad hoc committee, and make other arrangements and preparations.

He said Congress is working on a tight schedule with the aim of having the Bangsamoro Transition Authority in place by January 2015, assuming the proposed law – which will lay the foundation of the new autonomous region – is approved in the plebiscite, and is not questioned before the Supreme Court. – With Paolo Romero