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House leader gives up hope on BBL passage: We failed next generation

/ 08:23 PM January 27, 2016

A Mindanao solon and deputy speaker of the House of Representatives on Wednesday said he had given up hope that the proposed Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) would be passed in the 16th Congress.

“Today, with a heavy heart and a disturbing sense of foreboding, I close the book of hope for the passage of the Bangsamoro Basic Law,” Lanao Del Sur Rep. Pangalian Balindong said in his privilege speech.

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He said he was handing the challenge of passing the bill to the future generation.

“I am now in the twilight years of my life. The BBL is not anymore for me. It is a duty that we ought to fulfill for the young and the next generation to come,” Balindong said.

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“(W)e have failed the next generation who will obviously inherit this vicious cycle of war and conflict. The BBL should have been our vehicle to peace,” he added.

He said the 51 public hearings or 200 hours of committee level debates, plus eight months of consultations were “all put to waste—thrown into the abyss of uncertainty and darkness.”

“This is the lowest and saddest day of my legislative work,” Balindong said.

He said the lack of quorum in the past session days was obviously a deliberate effort to stall the passage of the BBL, now known as the Basic Law for the Bangsamoro Area of Responsibility (BLBAR).

Balindong said the Jan. 25, 2015, Mamasapano incident, a botched antiterror raid where 67 persons died in a firefight between the Special Action Force (SAF) policemen and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), derailed the prompt passage of the bill.

‘Not of our own making’

The attack gripped public attention as 44 SAF cops and five civilians were slain in a firefight with private armed groups and the MILF.

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The proposed BBL, a pet bill of the Aquino administration, seeks to implement the government peace deal with the MILF.

Balindong said the House of Representatives failed the people of Mindanao in not passing the bill that would have ended the decades-long Moro insurgency in the region.

“(W)ith one tragic and unexpected event not of our own making, the Mamasapano encounter has labeled us again as terrorists, extremists, enemies, traitors and murderers. I have personally witnessed and heard the bashing and lashing against the Moros not only over the media but right in this hall of Congress,” Balindong said.

“Because of the Mamasapano, many of those who supported the BBL wittingly or unwittingly punished the Moro people by denying us of the required votes and even the quorum to deliberate on the BBL,” he added.

Balindong said he could tell from his colleagues’ actions that they were deliberately avoiding the BBL by skipping sessions to derail its passage.

“Now, all of these moments of peace and accord are to be washed away, in one final denial of our Muslim birthright … I feel it in the sheer lack of quorum which is obviously a deliberate tactic to filibuster and lose much needed time to pass the BBL,” he said.

Balindong urged his colleagues to “recall the faces of the people that (they) met during the public hearings all over the country and especially in the Bangsamoro homeland.”

“Remember their expectant smiles, their hopeful faces and their warm gestures of goodwill,” he said.

Vicious cycle

Balindong said the failure in passing the BBL may only fuel the ongoing secessionist movement in Mindanao.

“As a Moro elder who has lived through decades of war and conflict, I have never been afraid of the future of my people than I am today. What we have not done is a perfect recipe for radicalization. It is a disaster that extremists can easily exploit,” he said.

Balindong decried the majority in Congress who chose to skip sessions vis-à-vis the 10 Moro solons who were taking up the cause of the Bangsamoro.

“Today … we take away the hopes of millions of people in the Bangsamoro. By the sheer tyranny of the majority, we have foreclosed all possible peaceful, legal and constitutional avenues for peace,” Balindong said.

A former Armed Forces of the Philippines chief, now a congressman, put it more frankly and declared the BBL dead.

In an interview, Muntinlupa Rep. Rodolfo Biazon said the passage of the BBL was virtually impossible in the current Congress, which has only three remaining session days before it goes on break on Feb. 5.

“BBL is effectively dead. It may pass the House of Representatives but will it pass the Senate within three days? Will it be signed by the President into law?” Biazon said.

Biazon said he hoped the death of the BBL would not result in the death of the peace talks with the MILF.

“If it is going to be revived, (the new president) must learn from the experience of this administration on the issue of constitutionality and acceptability by all sectors,” Biazon said. RC

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TAGS: Bangsamoro Basic Law, Basic Law for the Bangsamoro Area of Responsibility, BBL, Pangalian Balindong
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