House panel sees BBL passage

The Philippine Star

Posted at Jul 29 2015 10:14 AM | Updated as of Jul 29 2015 06:14 PM

MANILA - President Aquino's pitch for the draft Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) would hasten its passage, the chairman of the House of Representatives ad hoc committee on the proposed law said yesterday.

“We will hit the ground running once floor discussions resume,” Cagayan de Oro City Rep. Rufus Rodriguez said. “We are set to continue with the plenary deliberations, which we already started last May. I’d say prospects for the passage of the BBL remain very good.”

Aquino’s reiteration of support for the bill would lead to its approval in Congress and the successful conclusion of the Bangsamoro peace process, Rodriguez said.

“It’s really helpful that P-Noy is personally pushing for the passage of the bill,” he said.

“We know that the administration is really committed to this peace process, as it is part of its agenda for reform. We in the House also want these reforms to happen and you can also see that the draft BBL is high up in Congress’ legislative agenda.”

The support of a majority of the people for Aquino’s peace initiatives in Mindanao could contribute to the expeditious passage of the proposed law, Rodriguez said.

“The BBL will be Congress’ lasting legacy in pushing the success of the Bangsamoro peace process,” he said.

“Communities in the region and in Mindanao really need this law badly because they have lived under conflict and under deprivation for so long. We in the House want to change that dire situation into an era of hope, peace and development.

“We want to complete our terms in Congress able to say that we helped build the foundation for lasting peace in the Bangsamoro region and in Mindanao.”

The House is expected to resume deliberations on the proposed BBL next week.

Before Congress closed its second regular session last month, the House was in the period of sponsorship speeches and debates, with several members still waiting for their turn to grill Rodriguez and his vice chairmen.

Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) chairman Al Haj Murad Ebrahim had expressed hope that Aquino would push for the BBL’s passage in his last State of the Nation Address (SONA) and that the he will “enlighten more those who are still opposed to the BBL.” “We expect the President to reiterate his commitment to pass an undiluted version of the BBL during the SONA,” Murad told the media at Camp Darapanan on Saturday. The MILF remains optimistic about the BBL’s approval in the House and the Senate, according to the government peace panel.

In the Senate, Sen. Ferdinand Marcos Jr. still has to present a report on his version of the proposed BBL. He would prefer proposing amendments to the present law on the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao, instead of endorsing the proposed new law, he said.

The Senate would be holding an all-senator caucus on Aug. 3 in expectation of the submission of the Senate committee on local government chaired by Marcos of its own version of the BBL. The administration remains resolute in bringing peace to Mindanao despite the controversies and political issues, government peace panel chairman Miriam Coronel-Ferrer said yesterday. “We are committed to a peaceful and just settlement of conflict, inclusive of the interests of all – may they be Lumads, Bangsamoro or Christian,” she quoted Aquino as saying. Many challenges have come along the way, Ferrer said.

“But President Aquino remains determined to bring peace to Mindanao, and with the people’s support, we have gone this far in the process,” she said.

Ferrer cited the +23 public rating on the administration’s efforts in “Restoring peace to Mindanao,” up from +12 in March, with a majority of Filipinos (52 percent) expressing satisfaction as shown in the Second Quarter 2015 survey of the Social Weather Stations.

Ferrer said that among the unprecedented and historic peace milestones achieved under the administration are the signing of the Framework Agreement on the Bangsamoro (FAB), a preliminary peace agreement, on Oct. 15, 2012; the signing of the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro (CAB), which successfully concludes the more than 17 years of negotiations, on March 27, 2014; the submission of the draft BBL on Sept. 10, 2014; and the beginning of the decommissioning process with the ceremonial turnover and decommissioning of MILF weapons and forces last June 16, 2015.

''We had Al-Barka in 2011, the Sabah standoff and the Zamboanga siege in 2013, and the tragedy in Mamasapano early this year. While the peace process did not cause these events, we cannot deny that they are related,'' she said.

''Some sectors have called for an end to the peace talks and even for all-out war in the aftermath of these tragedies. And yet the President stood his ground. He knew the stakes, and he knew what a united Filipino nation can achieve through dialogue and principled compromise.''

Ferrer said Aquino has been equally firm in his conviction that the peace talks and ensuing agreements are all within the Constitution.

“If we recall the memorandum of instruction issued by the President to the government peace panel in 2010, we can see that the first of his instructions is to ensure that negotiations will be guided by the Constitution,'' she said.

Ferrer said proof of this is the historic August 2011 meeting between Aquino and chairman Murad. – Jess Diaz, Jose Rodel Clapano

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