While the President suggested the lower house to hold a special session for the passing of the Bangsamoro basic law (BBL) before the year ends, the upper house seemed to have a different opinion on this.
During the 1st Bangsamoro Assembly on Monday, President Rodrigo Duterte said in his speech that he will ask the Congress for a special session that can hasten the BBL’s passing before 2017 ends.
However, leaders of the Senate are currently dealing with the Tax Reform for Acceleration and Inclusion (TRAIN) and the proposed 2018 national budget, and according to them, even a special session would not suffice to finish everything.
“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.
“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,” the Senator said.
Sotto also said that BBL can be passed in the first quarter of 2018, with Senator President Pro Tempare Ralph Recto agreeing to this.
Meanwhile, Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon agrees with Sotto, as the two believe that the time for a special session is insufficient as the Congress will go on recess on December 13.
With senators “rushing” with the tax reform bill and the 2018 national budget, another addition to the amount of work is Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno’s impeachment trial if the House of Representative impeaches her.
“Plus, recall how long ex-Senator [Ferdinand] Marcos [Jr.] took to conduct hearings on BBL in past 16th Congress! Thus, I do not know when we can debate on BBL,” he added.
Drilon also pointed that no debate can happen even if there was a special session when there is still no committee report on the proposed BBL.
He also mentioned that Senator Juan Edgardo “Sonny” Angara, the head of the committee that will hear BBL is also handling the hearing on TRAIN – which Duterte is also rushing.
On the other hand, for Senator Panfilo “Ping” Lacson a special session is not a requirement.
“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,” he said.
For Senator Francis “Chiz” Escudero, the President is still in authority.
“That is the prerogative of the President. He may call it anytime Congress is in recess,” he said.