Belmonte to senators: What gives with BBL?
Frustrated by the mixed signals from the Senate on the status of the draft Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL), Speaker Feliciano Belmonte Jr. has asked the upper chamber to state categorically if it could pass the bill so as not to waste everyone else’s time.
“Why should we put so much of our time, effort and so forth in it if, at the end of the day, they cannot pass it? Or they don’t have any desire to do so? We would just be wasting our time,” Belmonte said.
“If they say they can’t do it, then I’ll tell the President: ‘Those guys told me they cannot pass it, so don’t keep pressing on us to spend our limited time on it,’” Belmonte said in an interview with the Inquirer last week.
Touted as the solution to decades of armed conflict through the creation of a new autonomous region in Mindanao, the BBL remains on top of legislative priorities in the 16th Congress.
On Thursday, in a meeting between House leaders led by Belmonte and Senate leaders led by Senate President Franklin Drilon, the proposed Bangsamoro law was cited as one of the measures to be rushed in the third and final regular session.
Congress earlier set a June deadline for the passage of the BBL but it failed to meet it. The new target is before the last quarter when lawmakers get busy deliberating on the 2016 national budget.
Belmonte said the Senate leadership should clearly tell the House if it could accomplish this, so they need not waste their time. The House has held several debates on the measure and needs to iron out a few kinks before it goes for second reading.
In the House, Belmonte said the majority coalition could get a favorable vote on the BBL, especially with the deletion of the controversial “opt-in” provision allowing contiguous areas to join the envisioned Bangsamoro region.
“The opt-in provision, in my view, is if we insist on it, we probably would not be able to pass the bill. But without that opt-in, we might be able to pass the bill,” he said.
“But my point is can the Senate do the same?” Belmonte said.
Until February or March
“What we want to do right now is look at all the bills that are on the verge of being completed, at the committee level, at the second reading level and the third reading level, so we can look at what can be done even as we tackle the budget, even as we tackle the BBL,” he said.
“We don’t want to get stuck on those two bills,” he added.
Belmonte noted that Congress could only work on priority legislation until February or March, as “after that it will be too political,” with everyone preoccupied with the 2016 elections.
“In the House, we are not as involved in politics as the senators, because they are in effect opposing each other. That’s the point. They are in effect opposing each other. Here, we’re not opposing anybody. But our time constraints are the same,” he said.
“We want to be in our districts. We want to be talking to our districts, and so forth. For me, if you can pass it, let us pass it. Because it’s something this administration wants to do. But if you can’t, tell us,” he said.
Asked what it would mean for the Aquino administration if Congress fails to pass the BBL, he said: “In the 16th Congress, it is one of the most important pieces of legislation, but it’s not the be-all or end-all.”
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