By Jose Rodel Clapano, Philippine Star


MANILA, Philippines - Government peace panel chairman Miriam Coronel-Ferrer has urged Congress to have extra session days to ensure the passage of the Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) this month.


Ferrer made the call in reaction to the pronouncement of Cagayan de Oro Rep. Rufus Rodriguez and Sen. Ferdinand Marcos Jr. that the House of Representatives and the Senate may not have enough time to pass the BBL this month.


Rodriguez, chairman of the House ad hoc committee on BBL, and Marcos, chairman of the Senate committee on local government tackling the BBL, also said they are not sure if the BBL would be enacted by 2016.


Ferrer maintained it is still possible for the two houses of Congress to pass the BBL this month if lawmakers will only exert extra effort.


“That’s in their power to schedule the process and therefore, it’s also in their power to fast-track the process,” Ferrer said in an interview with ANC the other night.


The chief peace negotiator suggested to the House and Senate to extend the period of interpellation and have a maximum of three to four lawmakers conducting the interpellation in one day.


She noted that the real issue at present is what lawmakers can do to pass the BBL on third and final reading this month.


Earlier, Rodriguez and Marcos said the long line of lawmakers waiting for their turn to interpellate lengthened the deliberations on the BBL.


Rodriguez said another problem is the lack of quorum in the House since July, delaying further the deliberations on BBL. Congress will also be busy with deliberations on the proposed 2016 national budget and the elections next year.


“The period that we are looking at is on or before Sept. 28. After that, I believe we’ll have a difficult time in passing this bill,” Rodriguez said.


Marcos said the Senate may finish its deliberations within three to five weeks should its flow improve. This is the only time that the BBL will move to the period of amendments.


“I have to qualify here that it’s a very rough estimate,” he added.


Rodriguez and Marcos also said the public would play a big role in giving lawmakers an extra push on the BBL.


“Just ask them to be present. If they’re against it, they can vote at the time of voting, but be there to listen to the debates, the interpellations, and provide the quorum so that we can proceed and decide on this,” Rodriguez said.


“Make your feelings known to your representatives, both the congressmen and the senators. Tell them what you think. Tell us what you think of what we have done, tell us what you think should be changed, tell us what you think is wrong, is right with the bills or the points we are raising. This is terribly important to us,” Marcos added.


The BBL is the legal iteration of the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro (CAB) signed by the government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) as the final settlement of the decades of armed conflict in Mindanao.


If enacted, the BBL will be the legal basis for the creation of an autonomous Bangsamoro political entity to replace the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM).


Law might be used for Mindanao secession


In yesterday’s plenary in the Senate, the debate on the Basic Law for the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region (BLBAR), the chamber’s version of the BBL, delved on the concerns raised that the measure might be used for Mindanao to secede from the rest of the Philippines.


It was Sen. Teofisto Guingona III, chairman of the Senate committee on peace, unification and reconciliation, who asked why the preamble was removed from the new version presented by Marcos. – With Pia Lee-Brago, Christina Mendez