MANILA - Disagreements over a contentious provision allowing the proposed Bangsamoro region to expand its territory within 25 years almost cost Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez his post, a congressional leader said Thursday.
Nearly 50 congressmen from Mindanao threatened to withdraw support for Alvarez if the provision remained in the House of Representatives’ version of the Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL), said Tawi-Tawi Rep. Ruby Sahali, who heads the peace and reconciliation committee.
"Sa totoo lang po (to tell you the truth) in ensuring na ma-deliver ng House itong BBL, it almost collapsed the leadership of our speaker,” she said in a BBL forum in Makati City.
"Muntik na kaming matanggalan ng speakership because of this (We nearly lost the speakership because of this)."
The contested provision would have allowed 5 plebiscites from the ratification of the BBL up to 25 years, after which the Bangsamoro territory shall be considered "delineated and delimited."
The 25-year window was supposed to be an improvement from a previous proposal, which had raised fears of a “creeping expansion” of the planned Bangsamoro region.
The House eventually agreed on a lone plebiscite for the BBL, whose core territories would include the existing Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao, 6 Lanao del Norte towns, and several other areas.
Sahali said the Mindanao congressmen had rejected an alternative proposal to hold one plebiscite within 10 years from ratification.
"The whole contingent, almost 50 congressmen from Mindanao, went to the speaker’s office and almost bolted out their support for the speaker pag hindi tinanggal yung provision (if that provision is not removed)," she said.
"So we had to step up and give it to them."
The House and the Senate are set to hold a bicameral conference committee from July 9 to 13 to reconcile their BBL versions.
A leader of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) said he would prefer that his group would be allowed to participate in the process.
"We want to be inside the room," said MILF vice chairman Ghazali Jaafar, who headed the commission that drafted a BBL version.