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BBL target missed, next is September

September is the new target of the House of Representatives to pass the bill creating a new region for the Bangsamoro in Mindanao, after the bill failed to meet the self-imposed June 11 deadline for its passage in Congress, Speaker Feliciano Belmonte Jr. said on Wednesday.

“When (Congress) meets again in July, the Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) will still be the most important bill ahead of us,” Belmonte told reporters.

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The House was poised to close the second regular session of the current 16th Congress on Wednesday night.

Under the new “confident timetable,” the House will approve the bill on third reading in September, assuming that the lawmakers finish the interpellation and amendments in time, the House leader said.

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The Speaker confirmed that the House leadership had agreed to scrap the opt-in provision that would allow areas contiguous to the Bangsamoro territory to be part of the new Bangsamoro area, through a majority vote in plebiscites on the fifth and 10th year of the law’s passage.

“This has caused the most objection, uncertainty and comment, not only from the interpellators but also from the people,” Belmonte said.

Asked about opposition to the bill in the Senate, whose concurrence would be needed to pass the BBL, the Speaker said: “There are too many ambitious people in their chamber. We don’t have that problem.”

Cagayan de Oro Rep. Rufus Rodriguez, chair of the ad hoc committee on the BBL, said critics of the measure should read the House version first before making any judgments. Detractors like Senators Ferdinand Marcos Jr. and Miriam Defensor-Santiago were speaking of the original draft submitted to Congress by the executive after reaching a peace deal with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) last year, he added.

Deliberation on the BBL had been smooth at the House until a violent clash between elite police forces and MILF fighters in Mamasapano town in Maguindanao caused outrage and sowed fears among lawmakers and the public.

More than 60 persons died in the Jan. 25 incident, including 44 police commandos and 17 MILF fighters.

In Cotabato City, an umbrella organization of Bangsamoro groups urged the MILF to reject a “watered down” BBL, and suggested a return to the “original aspiration” of Bangsamoro independence if the proposed law was diluted in Congress.

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In a June 8 letter to MILF chieftain Al Haj Murad Ebrahim, the League of Bangsamoro Organizations, composed of more than 100 Bangsamoro organizations, said the proposed BBL should keep to the “letter and spirit” of the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro, the peace agreement signed last year between the government and the MILF after 17 years of hard negotiations.

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TAGS: Bangsamoro Basic Law, BBL, Congress, Feliciano Belmonte Jr., House, Target
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