Aquino urges lawmakers to pass Bangsamoro law during his term
MANILA, Philippines—Lawmakers generally agreed with President Benigno Aquino III when he urged them in a meeting to support and pass the Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) during his administration.
Cagayan De Oro Rep. Rufus Rodriguez, who chairs the ad hoc Bangsamoro committee tackling the BBL, revealed details of the Monday meeting of some lawmakers with the President and said the solons agreed to Aquino’s call to pass the BBL within his term, and not leave it hanging until the next administration.
“That was said, otherwise we do not know what the next administration will do (on the BBL),” Rodriguez said.
But a former soldier turned lawmaker said the President shouldn’t force a vote on the bill because of the public and lawmakers’ outrage over the clash that involved the main benefactor of the BBL, the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), in an attack against the Special Action Force (SAF) that left 44 cops and 18 Moro fighters dead.
“In spite of what happened, the President said the BBL should be pushed through … I don’t agree. I stood up and asked: ‘Are we to proceed in spite of the fact that we’re not even certain on the intention of the MILF on the peace process?’” Magdalo Rep. Gary Alejano said.
Rodriguez said Aquino wanted the bill to be passed in the committee on March 18, tackled in the plenary by May 4 after the chamber’s Holy Week break and passed for final reading on June 11 or before sine die adjournment.
But Alejano said government should not force the time table for the passage of the bill that seeks to implement the government peace deal with MILF for the creation of a more politically autonomous Bangsamoro entity.
“They’re sticking to the time table. I don’t agree … It’s not wise to push for the BBL in spite of the high emotions,” Alejano said.
‘Pleasant,’ ‘serious’ meeting
Rodriguez described Monday’s meeting as “pleasant” and “serious,” with the President very open about the details of his communication with resigned police chief Alan Purisima about the botched terrorist raid in Mamasapano town in Maguindanao on Jan. 25.
“It’s very favorable. The President was very open to what happened. Everybody asked questions. The President finished all the questions, he was even waiting kung mayroon pa,” Rodriguez said.
He added that the Bangsamoro ad hoc committee which he chairs could not force a vote on the BBL now because of the lost trust of lawmakers on the MILF and BBL.
With the panel set to resume hearings on March 3, Rodriguez said the MILF should comply with the following confidence-building measures for the BBL to hurdle the committee level—surrender the seized SAF firearms; surrender their fighters involved in the Mamasapano clash, and help the government take down local bombmaker Basit Usman, who escaped the operation that killed his superior Malaysian terrorist Zulkilfi bin Hir alias Marwan.
“We’ll resume just to have deliberations but we won’t put it into a vote. Because if we put it into a vote, there’s a possibility of losing the vote even in the committee because congressmen want to have three things to be done by the MILF,” he said.
But should the MILF refuse to surrender their men involved in the clash, Rodriguez said the bill would be put in even rougher waters in the chamber.
He added that it is not enough for MILF to surrender the SAF firearms because only 16 were returned, and some of these were even tampered.
“Delikado na sa vote. Tuloy sa discussion but I’m afraid that if the vote will be conducted, we’ll lose the vote,” Rodriguez said.
“The way I feel it, it’s all or nothing. We really have to do it. It’s the demand of the congressmen and the people at large,” he added.
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