House vows to pass BBL by March 2018

MANILA, Philippines – House leaders on Tuesday, November 28, promised they would be able to pass the Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) before Congress adjourns on March 21, 2018.

House Majority Leader Rodolfo Fariñas gave the assurance a day after President Rodrigo Duterte, speaking at the Bangsamoro Assembly in Sultan Kudarat, vowed to ensure the passage of the long-awaited measure. He also promised that it would be "inclusive."

The President has proposed a special session of Congress to allow other groups to present their own BBL drafts. (READ: Duterte warns of 'trouble' if BBL not passed swiftly)

Fariñas said the House would conduct public hearings involving stakeholders in the proposed law. He also said they would ask Duterte to reconsider asking for a special session, against reiterating their commitment to pass the measure by March 2018.

It's not the only deadline the House is chasing.

Congress is also expected to deliberate and act on Duterte's push to shift to a federal form of government.

Fariñas said both the BBL and charter change are priorities in the House. They are also looking at options to make sure the two processes happen smoothly.

Fariñas added that depending on the Senate's concurrence, they are eyeing the possibility of including constitutional amendments to accommodate the BBL. These changes would be done in time for the barangay elections in 2018. These are mere "contingencies," however.

In the House, it's the committee on local government that spearheads deliberations on the proposed BBL, alongside the committee on peace and reconciliation and Muslim affairs.

The BBL was supposed to be the last phase in a peace deal between the Aquino administration and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF). It failed to get Congress approval, however, after a botched police operation in Mamasapano, Maguindanao led to the deaths of 44 elite cops, more than 20 MILF fighters, and 5 civilians. –