The ‘war’ is not yet won

Despite the initial success in securing good versions of the Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) in the Senate and in the House, the road ahead is still not paved. Much efforts, time, and goodwill have yet to be invested.

In plain words, the BBL is not yet in the basket, or figuratively speaking, the war is not yet won. Aware of the various legislative steps, it will have to be reckoned in its totality.

But right now there are good news to celebrate. At least, we can count them as part of the initial blessings.

First good news and positive development: In a meeting in Malacañang Palace with President Rodrigo Roa Duterte on April 4, both Senate President Koko Pimentel and Speaker of the House Pantaleon Alvarez committed to pass the BBL in May this year. We believe in them; and of course, we thanked them sincerely for their statesmanship gestures.

Second good news and positive development: On April 16, the House joint panel deliberated on the proposed amendments to the consolidated version of four proposals on the Bangsamoro Basic Law (House Bill Nos. 92, 6121, 6263 and 6475), but in the end it shelved the consolidated version and adopted in toto HB 6475 – the BBL Draft 2017 of the Bangsamoro Transition Commission (BTC. The same BTC BBL Draft 2017 has already been adopted with some revisions by the Senate Committee on Local Government as SB No. 1717 and considered “generally acceptable” by the MILF.

Both chambers have to follow the legislative path required in passing a law, such as period of interpellation, period of amendment, and after both Houses produce their respective version, the bicameral conference.

However, the truth is that both Chambers are racing against time. There are only eight remaining session days left. As a matter of rules, they only meet on Monday to Wednesday. The Congress resumes its last session May 14 to June 1 then adjourns sine die on June 2. If they meet from Monday to Friday, which is not very likely, then they have 14 session days. Thus, the chance of passing the proposed law is greater. We hope they consider this option.

To restress, the government and the MILF have been dealing with each with all frankness, transparency, and consistency that led them to sign the Framework Agreement on the Bangsamoro (FAB) and finally the CAB. The ceasefire agreement has not been breached for years. It is holding effectively to this day.

But we would like the BBL to be certified as an urgent administration bill. This would abbreviate the legislative track and sends a strong signal that the government is leaving no stone unturned for the early and prompt passage of the BBL.

The certification is also pursuant to the Annex of Transitional Arrangement and Modalities signed by MILF and government on February 27, 2013 to wit: “The President shall submit the proposed Basic Law to Congress as a legislative proposal. The bill for the proposed Basic Law shall be certified as urgent by the President.”

Of course, we are informed that the certification is already requested – and it is forthcoming.