Palace seen to make big announcement on proposed Bangsamoro autonomy soon
MANILA, Philippines—It’s not as simple as drafting a bill renaming a street.
Unfazed by criticism over delays on the finalization of the draft Bangsamoro bill, Presidential Peace Adviser Teresita “Ging” Deles said Tuesday night that progress was quietly being made in Malacañang’s delicate review of the measure and that a major announcement would soon be made on the issue.
“This is an important law. I certainly want it to be debated rigorously… so that when it is passed, people will know that this passed through the process, that all possible questions that could be posed has already been asked,” Deles told reporters on the sidelines of a reception at the residence of British Ambassador to the Philippines Asif Ahmad.
“… [That way,] people can’t say it was only passed because PNoy (President Aquino) pushed for it. This is not a law that is just like one renaming a street, where you tell lawmakers to ‘just sign, we don’t care.’ What we’re saying is, all of us have a say here. Congress knows it is an important law. It needs to go through a process that no one could question,” Deles said.
The Palace has drawn flak over delays in its transmittal of the draft bill on the Bangsamoro to Congress, with the legislature set to adjourn on June 14 for a six-week break. The Executive Department’s failure to file the draft measure before Congress goes to recess would mean further delays in deliberations on the bill to late July, after session resumes on the 28th of that month.
Deles said she was “almost sure” that Malacañang would make an important announcement soon, “especially since Congress is going on recess.”
She said it would be a Palace spokesperson, not her, who would make the announcement, saying it was usually the Palace that announced to the public measures that the President has decided to endorse to Congress.
“This is a matter of imagining what this political agreement will mean when you put it legally into operation, that it is really something that is going to work… So the Office of the President needs to look closely if this will be the best [version],” Deles said.
“And you know the President — he’s also a legislator. He knows the sort of questions that are asked. The President does not use his power to certify bills as urgent loosely,” she said of the President, who had served both in the House of Representatives and the Senate before assuming the nation’s top post.
The draft bill hopes to encapsulate the spirit of the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro (CAB), a historic pact that the Philippine government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) signed on Mar. 27, ending 17 years of negotiations. The agreement would institute a Bangsamoro autonomous region in Mindanao.
Given the complexities of translating CAB into law, Deles said finalizing the measure could really take time.
“Just imagine the CAB, how much time it took. Now, you’re going to put that into legal form. The CAB was written as a political agreement. When you do it into law, you have to look what other laws it might conflict with. Otherwise, all the debate will have been done,” Deles said.