Belmonte: Passage soon of BBL an ‘impossible dream’
The possibility that Congress would arrive at an agreed version of the Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) before the start of plenary debates on the 2016 national budget later this month was becoming “an impossible dream,” according to Speaker Feliciano Belmonte Jr.
Belmonte on Sunday said the current deliberations on the BBL were taking too long, especially at the House, and the time allotted for its passage would likely overlap with the debates on the 2016 budget, which by tradition is on top of the legislative agenda.
“The notion that you can get the Senate and the House to agree on a version before we concentrate on the budget is really becoming an impossible dream now,” Belmonte said in a radio interview.
“But we still have to go at it to show that peace in Mindanao, as exemplified by the BBL, is a continuing concern. It will still get a big chunk of our time,” he said.
The BBL would create a new self-governing region for the Bangsamoro people and hopefully end decades of armed conflict in Mindanao. It will seal the peace agreement signed by the government with the Moro
Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) last year.
Opposition to the BBL in its original form, however, erupted in Congress and elsewhere, and the draft of the law has undergone drastic revisions in both the House and the Senate.
2016 budget first
Congress leaders had hoped to pass the BBL by late September or it would have to give way to the plenary debates on the 2016 budget.
Belmonte said that “theoretically” it was possible to resume the deliberations on the BBL after the work on the budget had been completed.
“Maybe we will have to do that,” he said.
This means the timetable for the BBL would be extended yet again, complicating the schedule for the plebiscite required to ratify the measure in the affected regions.
The deliberations on the BBL had been delayed by a number of factors, chief among them, the failure to muster a sustained quorum in the 291-strong chamber.
After weeks of low attendance, the House was able to muster a quorum consistently last week, but progress on the BBL remained slow.
“The real problem is time is running out because many people still want to interpellate, which is their right,” Belmonte said.
He said it was also the right of the House leadership to decide whether or not to terminate the BBL debate or limit it, “if they have the votes, if they have the numbers,” referring to the House members.—DJ Yap
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