BBL passage impossible before year-end: senators

ABS-CBN News

Posted at Nov 28 2017 02:12 PM

President Rodrigo Roa Duterte does the peace sign as he poses for a photo with members of the Government of the Philippines (GPH) and Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) peace panels during the turnover ceremony of the new proposed Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) at the Rizal Hall in Malacañan Palace on July 17, 2017. Karl Norman Alonzo, Malacanang Photo

MANILA - Senate leaders on Tuesday raised doubts that Congress can pass the proposed Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) before 2017 ends, even if they hold a special session. 

President Rodrigo Duterte said Monday that he would ask lawmakers to hold a special session to hasten the passage of BBL, which seeks to establish a new autonomous government for the Bangsamoro. 

 "Not even a special session can fast track it to be passed into law this year. It contains 289 sections that hearings alone can take so much time," Majority leader Vicente Sotto said in a statement. 

"We need the Christmas break for our families. Even if we have sessions through Christmas and New Year's Day, it is not possible to pass it on third reading this year in the Senate." 

Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon meanwhile said he and Sotto agreed late Monday that lawmakers no longer have time to hold a special session before Congress goes on break on December 13. 

Senators, he said, are "rushing" to tackle the tax reform bill and the 2018 national budget. 

The Senate would also have to conduct an impeachment trial in January if the House of Representatives votes to remove Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno from office, Drilon said. 

"Plus, recall how long ex-Sen. [Ferdinand] Marcos [Jr.] took to conduct hearings on BBL in past 16th Congress! Thus, I do not know when we can debate on BBL," he added.

Senate President Pro Tempore Ralph Recto said BBL could be passed in 2018. 

The BBL is the enabling measure of the peace compact signed by the Philippine government and the MILF in 2014. 

Duterte has banked on the bill's passage to heal the "historical injustices" suffered by the Moros, who had waged a separatist rebellion since the late 1960s.

The President also cited the need to pass the BBL to stem the rise of violent extremism in the region, as analysts fear another failure to pass the BBL could force young Moros to turn to the Islamic State, which recently attempted to establish a front in the Philippines but was defeated by government forces.

The passage of the original version of the BBL during the previous administration was scuttled because of the Mamasapano clash, where 44 elite cops were killed by Moro groups. It also faced questions on its constitutionality.