Palace admits Bangsamoro law passage may be delayed until 2015
MANILA, Philippines – With the Philippine government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) still negotiating the provisions of the draft Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL), Malacañang on Wednesday admitted that it may not meet its deadline by the end of the year.
“Certainly, we would hope that we can expedite the process, but we realize that it’s not—it has not yet been submitted to Congress. And so, we—they are being realistic, for instance, on the timetable,” Presidential Spokesperson Edwin Lacierda said during a Palace briefing.
Lacierda was referring to the two chambers of Congress after Senate President Franklin Drilon and Speaker Feliciano Belmonte separately said that they will not be able to meet the December 2014 deadline set by President Benigno Aquino III.
Despite this, the spokesperson said that “Everyone is conscious of the fact that this is an important measure from government, and therefore, this should be attended to as soon as it is submitted to Congress for deliberation.”
During his fifth State of the Nation Address (Sona), Aquino urged Congress to pass the said law before the year ends to “give the Bangsamoro Transition Authority one and a half years to show positive change.”
The BBL, which was drafted by the Bangsamoro Transition Commission (BTC), was first submitted to the Office of the President on April 22. However, the delay caused by the review prompted the BTC to issue a resolution “elevating to the Panels for clarification and resolution the outstanding issues on the draft Basic Law.”
At present, the Philippine government and the MILF peace panel are in the middle of a 10-day meeting to finalize the controversial bill.
“The panels continue to work hard to complete mutually acceptable draft of the BBL at the earliest possible time, hopefully this August,” Presidential Adviser for the Peace Process Teresita Quintos Deles told INQUIRER.net on Tuesday.
Drilon earlier said the best they could do was to pass the bill during the first quarter of 2015.
Lacierda explained that the law was needed to push through with the plebiscite in 2016, which will define the scope of the Bangsamoro Juridical Entity.
“The government panels are in discussion right now as to ensuring that we come up with a common Bangsamoro Basic Law…They’re working hard on submitting it as soon as possible,” he said.
Asked what was taking so long to finalize, Lacierda said the government does not “negotiate through media” since they would want the two parties to first agree on the issues before facing the public.
“As far as they are concerned, they would rather discuss these things in a manner that would allow openness and frankness within them, and such that what they will report out will eventually be a common stance on the Bangsamoro Basic Law,” he said.
Lacierda said that in the end the important thing is that the BBL was acceptable to all.
“That is, I think, first and foremost in the minds of both panels. And also, as the President stated, an agreement that is just and fair—a bill that is just and fair,” he said. “The panels are aware of the timeline. But the panels are also equally aware that the substance should be discussed mutually and agreed mutually.”
Government chief negotiator Miriam Coronel-Ferrer earlier said that the panels have already tackled the fiscal autonomy and structure of the Bangsamoro government.