BBL passage before end of 2017 impossible – senators
Senate leaders were cold to President Rodrigo Duterte’s call for a special session to tackle the proposed Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) as they raised doubts that Congress could pass the measure this year anyway.
“Not even a special session can fast track it to be passed into law this year. It contains 289 sections that hearings alone can take so much time,” Senate Majority Leader Vicente “Tito” Sotto III said in a text message to reporters on Tuesday.
“We need the Christmas break for our families. Even if we have sessions thru Christmas and New Year’s Day, it is not possible to pass it on third reading this year in the Senate,” Sotto added.
Like Sotto, Senate President Pro Tempore Ralph Recto believed that the BBL could be passed in 2018.
Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon said he and Sotto discussed and agreed on Monday night that the Senate has no time to have a special session before Congress goes on Christmas break on December 15 as the chamber was “rushing” the approval of the proposed 2018 national budget as well as the tax reform bill.
“So no BBL debate can happen even in special session,” Drilon said in another text message.
He also pointed out that the chairman of the Senate local government committee, Senator Sonny Angara, was “full time” on the tax measure as he also chairs the committee on ways and means.
And if the House of Representatives would impeach Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno, Drilon said the Senate would have to conduct an impeachment trial in January 2018.
“Plus, recall how long ex-Sen. Marcos took to conduct hearings on BBL in past 16th Congress! Thus, I do not know when we can debate on BBL,” the minority leader said, referring to former Senator Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr. who previously headed the local government committee.
Even without holding a special session, Senator Panfilo Lacson said Congress could conduct hearings on the BBL measure but to approve it before the end of 2017 would be “impossible.”
“Congress can conduct committee hearings on BBL even without the President calling for a special session. Unless the intention is to pass the measure before year end, which is impossible considering the complex and contentious issues involved in its provisions, a special session may not be necessary,” Lacson said.
Senator Francis Escudero, meanwhile, acknowledged the President’s prerogative to call for a special session.
“He (Duterte) may call it anytime Congress is in recess,” Escudero said.
On Monday, Duterte said Congress could hold a special session for one or two days to hear BBL proponents.
“I will work very hard for it. I will ask Congress to [hold] a special session just to hear you talk about this issue. I said this is sacred. This is important and valuable. It would involve eventually, if the people wish it, a new structure for the entire country,” he said.
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