MIND DA NEWS| BBL: To Insure Constitutionality

GENERAL SANTOS CITY – With 54 session days remaining of the second regular session of the 16th Congress, the timeline to pass the Bangsamoro Basic Law is shrinking day by day while deliberations have been suspended indefinitely. For sure, it won’t be passed in 25 session days until adjournment on March 20; it will take a miracle to pass it in 29 session days, May 4 to June 11 when the Congress adjourns sine die. The Moro pass-BBL rallies, one before the Congress, mean growing impatience.

Will it be passed in the first half of the third regular session, by December 2015? If not, the BBL will wait for the 17th Congress – a most scary prospect.

Mixed Voices

From the Senate, Sen. Ferdinand R. Marcos, Jr., chair of the Committee on Local Government that leads the BBL deliberation, said the Senate timetable to approve the BBL by March 18 “is completely demolished” because of BBL’s many controversial provisions and the Mamasapano incident. So the government and MILF must start to look for “alternative ways” of seeking peace in Mindanao. (INQUIRER.net, February 11, 2015: BBL now ‘demolished’; time to look for alternatives—Marcos)

In other reports, while Senate President Franklin Drilon has steadfastly guaranteed the passing of the BBL, two of the 13 sponsors have withdrawn. The critical stance and the ominous silence of others are enigmatic. Can the majority vote of 13 be mustered?

From the House of Representatives, Speaker Feliciano Belmonte Jr. said the proposed BBL is not dead despite the suspension of the deliberations on it following the tragic Mamasapasano incident. He said he remains optimistic the chamber will be able to pass it even if not within the original March 18 deadline. (The Philippine Star, February 11, 2015: Bangsamoro Basic Law not dead – Speaker)

In other reports: Rep. Rufus Rodriguez, chair of the Ad Hoc Committee on BBL said that while the 37th and last committee hearing of the provisions on national defense, security and public order has been suspended, the AHCBBL will continue consolidating its reports on the 36 previous hearings. But when the several groups investigating the Mamapasano incident can come out with the “whole truth”– the condition for the lifting of the suspension — makes really indefinite the holding of the 37th AHCBBL hearing.

The representatives from Muslim Mindanao are one in urging the early passage of the BBL. In contrast, the group of military and police officers turned congressmen are very critical; they and the majority Christian representatives – possibly indifferent in their silence and visibly antagonized by the Mamasapano incident – can delay the BBL enactment and imperil its approval.

Former EU ambassador to the Philippines Alistair MacDonald, chair of the Third Party Monitoring Team that assesses the implementation the Comprehensive Agreement on Bangsamoro, noted with alarm the setback, due to the Mamasapano incident, of the Mindanao peace deal despite its significant progress. However, heWithout making predictions, but hoped the commitment to the peace deal of the government and MILF would prevail. (The Manila Standard Today, February 14, 2015: Peace pact took a hit, foreign monitors say)

From the Palace: Last February 10, Malacañang reiterated its call on lawmakers to pursue the Bangsamoro peace process with warning through Communications Secretary Herminio Coloma that the only alternative the peace process is widespread instability that will result in the breakdown of security and violence. (philstar.com, February 10, 2015: Palace warns lawmakers anew against junking Bangsamoro peace talks)

Troubling Signs

Two congressmen agree with Speaker Belmonte (The Philippine Star, February 14, 2015: House: BBL can still be passed under P-Noy’s watch). However, they revealed signs of troubles that lie ahead. Another assured the passing of a watered-down BBL.

Rep. Celso Lobregat: On the premise that the BBL “… will indeed bring peace and development to Mindanao, then we should approve it, but not in the form it was presented to us.” But doubting its approval by June, “… we can try to pass it toward the latter part of the year or next year before the end of the President’s term.”

Rep. Rodolfo Albano III: “There is still a lot of hard work ahead of us. We all want to ferret out the truth behind the Mamasapano massacre of 44 of our policemen and in the process provide justice to them, and to be able to finesse the BBL into an acceptable, constitutionally compliant peace agreement.”

Rep. Rodolfo Biazon: “I assure everyone, the Bangsamoro Basic Law will be watered down because we need to satisfy two issues: One, the constitutionality issue, and two, reconciling the different interests of different groups.” (Philippine Daily Inquirer, February 10, 2015: Biazon: Bangsamoro Basic Law will be watered down)

Biazon has stated the two main reasons why, as predicted by the Senate and House leaders, the BBL would be disapproved if put into a vote today. While it’s difficult, it might be easier to insure constitutionality than making the BBL acceptable to all.

Conflicting Group Interests

Conflicting group interests emanate from (1) the fear of diverse groups of losing their rights under existing laws or of these rights being diminished; and, (2) the unacceptable and revolting perception that the Moros will become more privileged than other groups. Reconciling the different interests is in reality easier than imagined.

Of the “(1)”, the BBL has provisions guaranteeing rights. Why not just wait and see how the guarantees are going to work. If the guarantees turn out unsatisfactorily, the Congress can reconcile the pertinent laws and the BBL provisions through amendments.

Of the “(2)”, there is a need to re-examine biases and prejudices to understand the many historical political, social and economic realities that have bred the injustices at the root of the Moro problem and rebellions. The challenge to the Christian majority in and out of the Congress is to sacrifice their biases and prejudices to correct the injustices done to the Moros in the past centuries. TO BE CONTINUED

(Comment” is Mr. Patricio P. Diaz’ column for MindaViews, the opinion section of MindaNews. The Titus Brandsma Media Awards honored Mr. Diaz with a “Lifetime Achievement Award” for his “commitment to education and public information to Mindanawons as Journalist, Educator and Peace Advocate.” You can reach him at patponcediaz@yahoo.com.)

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