MANILA — Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque stressed on Tuesday President Rodrigo Duterte is “committed” to ensuring the passage of the Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL).
“The President’s message is very clear. It was a campaign promise and it is a commitment from him as President that he will do all that is necessary to rectify what he described as the historical injustice committed against the Muslim population of Mindanao,” Roque said.
He noted that unlike the previous BBL, the administration’s envisioned BBL is “all-inclusive,” with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front, the Moro National Liberation Front, and even the Lumads in it.
Revealing information he got from his “sources,” the Presidential Spokesperson said the BBL’s passage, “at least in the House of Representatives,” is expected by March 2018.
In a press conference in Malacanang, the official was asked to confirm if the targetted date of March 21 for the BBL’s approval is viable.
“I hope so. I did not want to give any timeframe to the Congress because they are after all a co-equal branch of government,” Roque replied. “But I have heard from my sources in OPAPP (Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process) that they’re looking at sometime in March for the passage, at least in the House of Representatives.”
Meanwhile, Roque pointed out that in the Duterte government’s BBL, there would only be one political entity known as the Republic of the Philippines, and the relationship of the proposed Bangsamoro entity would be with the Philippine government.
He made it clear that the government is not allowing any cessation.
“We are not allowing the creation of a new state,” Roque stressed. “It will have to be within the framework of the existing Republic of the Philippines and that is what the President meant.”
In a speech at the Bangsamoro Assembly in Maguindanao, President Duterte said he would ask a special session to discuss the BBL in Congress.
Senators, however, clarified that not even a special session can fast track the passage of the BBL into law this 2017. “It contains 289 sections that hearings alone can take so much time,” Senator Tito Sotto said.
Senator Panfilo Lacson, on the other hand, said Congress could conduct committee hearings on BBL even without the President calling for a special session.
“Unless the intention is to pass the measure before yearend, which is impossible considering the complex and contentious issues involved in its provisions, a special session may not be necessary,” Lacson said.
For his part, Roque explained that the chief executive was only emphasizing “that if need be, he would call Congress for a special session.”
“He did not intend or he did not limit the timeframe this year or the remaining part of December,” he said. “In fact, the Bangsamoro bill is still at the committee level at the House ‘no. So we expect that we have time for Congress to discuss the BBL.”
According to Roque, a special session is required when Congress has run out of time because both Houses of Congress must convene by way of a special session if they are to approve bills.