Photo courtesy from Bai Sandra Sema facebook, at a Rally outside Congress in support of BBL.

House Joint Committee Retains BTC-Drafted BBL

Cotabato City, April 17, 2018- The Joint Committee on Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) in the House of Representatives namely, Committee on Local Government, Muslim Affairs, and Committee on Peace, Reconciliation and Unity approved the omnibus motion of Rep. Sandra S. Sema, Deputy Speaker for Mindanao to “retain as is” House Bill 6475, the bill drafted by the Bangsamoro Transition Commission (BTC), and sponsored by Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez, Majority Floor Leader Rodolfo Farinas, Jr. and about a hundred other representatives.

Yesterday, the three Committees voted separately on the omnibus motion of deputy Speaker Sema versus proposed amendments to adopt the original provisions of the proposed law.

During the voting only in the Committee on Local Government where the motion of Rep. Sema lost, voting 9-1. 

In the Committee on Peace, Reconciliation, and Unity, the vote was 7 for Yes, 3 against, while in the Committee on Muslim Affairs, the vote was 5 for Yes, 3 against. 

In a statement posted on her Facebook Account, Rep. Sema said, “The long struggle, the sacrifices, the prejudice, the hurting words uttered against our people took a favorable turn in today's Joint Committee Hearing on the Bangsamoro Basic Law.”

The approval effectively disregarded the working draft which was a consolidation of all four Bangsamoro bills filed before the House, including the BTC draft, opting instead to “retain as is” the standalone BTC version, said Mindanews in its report yesterday.

Rep. Sema told MindaNews in a telephone interview that the BTC Version will then move to the plenary for deliberations when sessions resume on May 15.

For her part, Tawi-Tawi Rep. Ruby Sahali, Chair of the Committee on Peace, Reconciliation and Unity, described what happened Monday as “a leap of faith.”

Sahali wrote on her Facebook page, “The decades-long Bangsamoro struggle took a leap of faith today.”

MILF 1st Vice Chairman and BTC Chair Ghazali Jaafar extended his congratulations to all peace-loving leaders who are working with them so that just and dignified peace will prevail in Moro Homeland. 

In an interview by Mindanews over the phone, Mohagher Iqbal, Chair of the MILF Peace Implementing Panel sounded a bit more cautious. “We are relieved and happy, but the way ahead is still very challenging. The fight is not yet won”.

The approval of Sema’s motion hastened the deliberations at the committee level but the bigger hurdle, however, is in the plenary, Mindanews also said in its report.

The House Joint Committee retained version of BBL is the same version that President Rodrigo Duterte wants to implement to achieve lasting peace in Mindanao.

Once enacted into law, and ratified in a plebiscite, the BBL will put in place a new, and inclusive political entity called Bangsamoro, where the Moro, Indigenous Peoples, migrant settlers can freely practice their beliefs, customs and tradition.