BBL revival won’t be shot down in House — Alvarez
MANILA — Incoming Davao del Norte Rep. Pantaleon Alvarez, who has forged a coalition to become the next House Speaker, said the Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) would not be automatically shot down by the 17th Congress if a lawmaker would refile it.
“If a congressman files the BBL, the House will entertain it,” Alvarez told editors and reporters during the Meet the Inquirer on Tuesday.
This view is contrary to Alvarez’s earlier pronouncement that he saw no need for the BBL since the incoming administration of President-elect Rodrigo Duterte would work for constitutional amendments allowing the country to shift to a federal form of government.
But still, Alvarez feels lukewarm to the measure. “… It will be up to the majority to decide (to have the BBL passed),” he said.
He did not say who among the incoming members of the House have been assigned to refile the BBL, the enactment of which has not been included in the top legislative priorities of his leadership.
For his pet measures such as federalism, reinstatement of the death penalty and lowering the minimum age of criminal responsibility, Alvarez said lawmakers have already started drafting the related bills for them.
Alvarez disclosed that based on his reading of the draft, “some of the BBL provisions require constitutional amendments,” hence he wanted the measure considered in the efforts for federalism, which would require a revision of the 1987 Constitution. The country’s present charter provides for a unitary presidential form of government where a central government has most of the powers already assigned to federal states in other countries that have adopted federalism.
The BBL sought to implement mainly the power and wealth-sharing consensus hammered throughout 17 years of peace negotiations between the Philippine national government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) that culminated in the signing in March 2014 of the landmark Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro (CAB).
It was filed in the House and Senate in September 2014 but has languished in the committees for so long that their respective plenaries lacked the time to have it debated and firmed up when it adjourned last February for the May 9 election campaign. The Jan. 25, 2015 massacre of Special Action Force commandos by Moro rebels after they apprehended and eliminated an FBI-identified terrorist in Mamasapano, Maguindanao, also derailed the measure.
In his final State of the Nation Address in July 2015, President Aquino outlined the BBL as among the top priorities of his remaining days in office. This same commitment was reflected in the official pronouncements of the Senate and House leadership.
During the campaign, Duterte promised to have the BBL enacted if he was elected into office to appease the Moro people. (But in other interviews and during presidential debates, Duterte had talked about compromises on the contents of the BBL draft and indicated that federalism would be the substantive effort of his government to satisfy the aspiration of the Moro people for autonomy.)
The incoming administration coalition is touted to have a “super majority” in both the Senate and House of Representatives. Alvarez himself has calculated that he will have at least 250 House members supporting his bid as Speaker.
In a statement issued over the weekend, MILF chairman Murad Ebrahim said “the MILF maintains that the CAB-based BBL needs to be immediately passed into law, not only because it effectively addresses the peculiarities unique to the Bangsamoro that are not necessarily found in other prospective federal states.” SFM
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