By Sammy F. Martin
MANILA, Aug. 19 (PNA) — The requests of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) and the Bangsamoro Transition Commission (BTC) to restore at least 28 provisions that lawmakers deleted under the proposed Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) is not acceptable, Speaker Feliciano Belmonte on Wednesday said.
Belmonte said the 98-man ad hoc committee on the BBL, chaired by Cagayan de Oro City Rep. Rufus Rodriguez, had cautiously crafted the BBL version, which is now being deliberated in the plenary to make this constitutionally complaint.
“We have advanced quite a lot in the BBL. We have to stick to that and Congressman Rodriguez pointed out to me that a lot of changes we have advocated were basically in the Senate version so if we succeed in approving our version which is now pending, ‘di na rin masyadong malayo sa Senate discussion to reconcile the two conflicting versions,” Belmonte told House reporters.
“We have been proceeding very cautiously, but very deliberately on this thing (BBL) and what we have done is substantial,” Belmonte added.
Belmonte vowed to mobilize quorum during sessions starting next week to push for the approval of the BBL on third and final reading next month after recent sessions were adjourned due to absence of quorum.
Belmonte, Rodriguez and other House leaders met last week with Mohaqher Iqbal, who is both chairman of the BTC and chief negotiator for the MILF to discuss therestoration of the deleted provisions.
Earlier, the BTC, composed of representatives from the MILF and other sectors from Mindanao, drafted the BBL.
The measure, a product of negotiations between the government and the MILF, seeks to create a new autonomous region in Mindanao.
House Bill 5811, which is in substitute bill for HB 4994 (An Act Providing Basic Law for Bangsamoro Autonomous Region) is still in the period of interpellations with at least 15 congressmen, including Zamboanga City Rep. Celso Lobregat who is the measure’s most vocal critic.
Iqbal said in previous interview that MILF would continue lobbying until after they convinced lawmakers to restore the 28 provisions deleted by the committee; they would follow it up to the plenary and their last resort –the Bicameral Conference Committee.
When asked by reporters what will they do if Congress continue to turn down their request, Iqbal said “they will cross the bridge when they get there.”
For his part, Rodriguez admitted that it was very difficult for him to restore the 28 provisions deleted from the original BBL draft because the product of their work is a compilation and agreement of all members of the panel.
“Of course you cannot do [deleting] that. We have worked this for months of consultation from people affected in Mindanao. We need to balance the law that will favor all Mindanaons,” he said.
He pointed out that whatever would be the outcome of the law, it must be accepted by the proponents or leave it if they think that they cannot adopt the new version. (PNA)