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Congress won’t pass BBL this year

There’s no need for a special session of Congress to discuss the proposed Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) as leaders of the House of Representatives have assured President Rodrigo Duterte that the measure would be passed by mid-March next year.

Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez “has given his commitment that we will finish it before we adjourn on March 21, [2018],” Majority Leader Rodolfo Fariñas told a news conference on Tuesday.

Public hearings

“We need public hearings again and the committees have to go around the country for that. If it’s a special session, we can’t compress [the deliberations]. We will request that perhaps we will no longer need [a special session],” he added.


Fariñas, who was with Alvarez during the press conference, was reacting to Mr. Duterte’s statement on Monday that he would ask Congress to hold a special session, after its recess next month, to discuss the proposed BBL.

House leaders filed the BBL in September based on the draft submitted by the Bangsamoro Transition Council to Mr. Duterte on July 17. The draft BBL was transmitted to both the House of Representatives and the Senate in August.

The measure will give flesh to peace agreements signed by the government and Moro rebels and, it is hoped, end decades of fighting in Muslim-majority areas of Mindanao.

‘Grossly premature’

Fariñas said the proposed BBL had been referred to the local government committee, which would act as the lead panel, and to the panels on Muslim affairs and on peace, reconciliation and unity.

Albay Rep. Edcel Lagman described as “grossly premature” the President’s call to Congress for a special session.

“The BBL bill must be first cleansed of constitutional infirmities, foremost of which is the legislative abolition of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao, whose establishment is mandated by the 1987 Constitution,” he said.

Senators also said that with the Senate rushing to pass the tax reform bill and the 2018 national budget by yearend, it would be impossible to tackle the proposed BBL before the Christmas break.

Not possible

Senate Majority Leader Vicente Sotto III on Tuesday said that not even a special session could fast-track the passage of the proposed BBL this year since hearings and debates on the proposed measure with 289 sections would take at least more than a month.


“We need the Christmas break for our families. Even if we have sessions through Christmas and New Year’s Day, it is not possible to pass it on third reading this year in the Senate,” Sotto told reporters.

Minority Leader Franklin Drilon said he agreed with Sotto that there was no more time for the Senate to tackle it before its Dec. 15 break.

Drilon pointed out that the Senate was still rushing the tax reform for acceleration and inclusion bill and the 2018 national budget. “[There is] no committee report yet, so no BBL debate can even happen in special session,” he said.

Sen. Panfilo Lacson said passing the proposed BBL before year-end was impossible “considering the complex and contentious issues involved in its provisions.”

Malacañang on Tuesday said it expected the proposed BBL to hurdle the House of Representatives by March next year. —With a report from Philip C. Tubeza

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