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House panel approves BBL draft

/ 03:18 PM May 20, 2015

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 Video by Noy Morcoso/INQUIRER.net

In a show of force, Malacañang allies and supporters voted in favor of the Bansamoro Basic Law (BBL) on Wednesday.

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In a vote of 50 votes in favor, 17 against and one in abstention, the substitute bill and the committee report were approved by the House ad hoc committee on the BBL.

Panel chair Cagayan de Oro second district Rep. Rufus Rodriguez said it was unprecedented in the history of the House of Representatives that at least 50 hearings were conducted and 91 lawmakers participated in the deliberation of a proposed measure.

He added the approval of the BBL in the ad hoc committee would resolve “centuries of neglect” in Mindanao.

“It is an affirmative action to correct the centuries of neglect and injustices inflicted in our Muslim sector.”

“I wish to see the day in Mindanao that no one will be left behind,” Rodriguez said.

Some lawmakers who approved the bill said they would introduce amendments once the measure is scrutinized at the plenary.

Before the voting, an amendment was carried: Rep. Henry Oaminal’s motion to remove the word “abolishing” in the final title of the draft was approved.

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An hour before the voting, the minority bloc led by Minority Leader Ronaldo Zamora said it would thumb down the measure.

‘There will still be war’

Registering his opposition to the bill, deputy minority leader and Bayan Muna Rep. Neri Colmenares said the approved bill failed to resolve the roots of conflict in Mindanao.

“BBL failed to resolve the roots of the conflict. That is why there will still be war,” Colmenares said.

He also slammed the committee for allegedly approving the “yellow” version of the measure.

“We missed our chance for peace because Malacañang corrupted it,” he said.

Meanwhile, Zamboanga City first district Rep. Celso Lobregat, one of the bill’s staunchest critics, said Wednesday was a “sad day” due passage of the bill in the committee.

He said he had proposed about 150 amendments in the hopes of rectifying unconstitutional provisions in the bill. However, most of his proposals were shot down by the administration majority.

Saying that while he is an advocate for peace in Mindanao, he is “not for appeasement at the expense of the republic.”

Lone abstention

Palawan second district representative Frederick Abueg said he abstained from voting because of the “opt-in” provision which was approved in the committee.

Abueg lamented that the bill provided a gray area for Palawan as it was included in the Tripoli Agreement.

“The requirement now is not just the contiguous areas but also the provinces identified in the Tripoli Agreement. Kasama kami doon, kaya gray area sa amin kung kami talaga ay masasama sa Bangsamoro entity,” Abueg said.

Under the amended Art. XIV, Sec. 4 of the bill, “any local government unit or geographic area outside the territorial jurisdiction of the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region but which are contiguous to any of the component units of the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region and within the area of autonomy identified in the 1976 Tripoli Agreement” can hold a plebiscite for joining the autonomous region.

Rodriguez said the inclusion of the Tripoli Agreement in the bill was a recognition of its historical role in the peace process.

13-hour marathon hearing

The House committee deliberated and voted  on the measure in a 13-hour marathon hearing which lasted until late Wednesday night.

Lobregat was able to win several minor provisions on the BBL draft as Malacañang allies shot down attempts to insert major amendments on the bill.

Members of the Makabayan bloc were able to insert minor provisions on the draft law: Bayan Muna Rep. Carlos Isagani Zarate’s motion to retain exclusive power over Bangsamoro settlements to the Bangsamoro government and ACT Teachers party-list Rep. Antonio Tinio’s motion to adopt  the original BBL draft provision pertaining to the Bangsamoro government powers.

Critics of the draft law said Malacañang had a hand in the working draft which was passed by the House panel. Rodriguez vehemently denied the allegation, saying the draft incorporated 95 amendments from various lawmakers.

After its approval in the ad hoc committee, the BBL will be scrutinized by the House appropriations and ways and means committees.

Rodriguez is confident the measure will be passed in the Congress’ lower chamber before its last session day on June 11.

In September, President Benigno Aquino III transmitted the BBL draft to the House of Representatives.

The BBL, which will create a new entity replacing the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao is a product of a 2014 peace agreement forged after 17 years of negotiations between the Philippine government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front.

It will have a parliamentary form of government led by a chief minister. AC/RC

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TAGS: Bangsamoro, Bangsamoro Basic Law, Rufus Rodriguez
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