MANILA -- Despite the President's call on Congress to pass the measure and pronouncements from some top legislators that it is a priority, the senator handling the proposed Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) said there's no guarantee it will be approved during the Aquino administration.
Senator Ferdinand Marcos Jr., chair of the Senate's local government committee, also raised the possiblity it would be refiled in the 17th Congress with a new government in power.
''If it's not finished, we will continue it in the next Congress,'' he told reporters at a briefing on Thursday. ''It will have to be refiled in the next Congress.''
President Aquino wants the bill, which establishes a new Muslim-led autonomous region in Mindanao, to be among his administration's legacies. It was crafted after years of peace negotiations between government and the rebel group Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF).
However, support for the BBL among legislators weakened after the January 25 incident in Mamasapano, Maguindanao, where 44 elite cops were killed in an encounter with rebels. The bill did not pass in March as originally targeted to give the region enough time for transition before the 2016 national elections.
'NOT UP TO ME'
Marcos, who has been critical of the Aquino-backed draft of the bill, said his committee report is ready to be submitted to the Senate plenary on August 10. Once the report is released, however, he said its progress would already be beyond his control.
Marcos said no one can put a deadline on floor debates on the bill, which is scheduled to begin August 17.
''That's not up to me. I cannot make any assurances. Those kinds of assurance are not for me to make. You have to talk to all of the senators,'' he said.
He also denied delaying the bill's passage, saying he has conducted the legislative process for the BBL ''as expeditiously as possible. ''
''I cannot see how to make it faster,'' Marcos said. ''You can put as much as pressure as you want. It would take as long as it would take. ''
The version of the BBL that Marcos will present to the Senate floor is essentially a substitute bill because of its substantial differences from the draft, which he said would never pass the scrutiny of Congress.
Marcos said around 80 percent of the BBL's 115 provisions underwent either minor or major changes, and the most important amendment has to do with inclusiveness.
The substitute measure includes other stakeholders, such as representatives from sultanates and indigenous groups, in the body that would oversee the transition from the current Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) to the Bangsamoro, Marcos said.
More groups were also given guaranteed seats in the Bangsamoro parliament.
''Whereas the draft BBL talks solely about the MILF, we learned our lesson from our hearings and tried to involve the sultanates, tried to involve other tribes, tried to involve the LGUs (local government units), tried to involve the business community, '' said Marcos.
''We’re just giving everybody a role to play.''
Several controversial provisions were also deleted, such as the creation of Bangsamoro counterparts of constitutional offices and its own police force, as well as the mechanism for areas outside its proposed core territory to join the Bangsamoro through a petition of 10 percent of voters.
''What we tried to do was to align it as close as we could to a situation in a standard LGU in a province,'' Marcos said.
In his version of the bill, Marco said the so-called ''opt in'' provision would only apply during the plebiscite when voters in areas within the core would be asked whether or not they want to be part of the new region.
The substitute measure also seeks to guarantee security of tenure for civil servants in the ARMM who may be displaced once the Bangsamoro government replaces it.