File photo by Franz Lopez/Rappler
Manila, Philippines – The House of Representatives is set to vote on the proposed Bangsamoro Basic Law on January 27, the chairman of the Ad Hoc Committee on the BBL said on Thursday, January 22.
But there's a catch, of course: the vote depends on whether the House can muster a quorum on that day.
“We have set the voting on Wednesday. As long as we have a quorum, the voting will push through,” said Cagayan de Oro City 2nd District Representative Rufus Rodriguez.
The House is notorious for habitally absent lawmakers. In 2013, it was reported that only 21 out of the more than 280 the members of the House of Representatives registered a perfect attendance in all 168 sessions the 15th Congress. (READ: Ledesma, Pacquiao lead House absentees)
In December last year, civil society leaders from 14 Mindanao-based groups urged the Office of the Ombudsman to look into the "chronic absenteeism" in the House that has hampered its work on important bills, particularly the proposed Bangsamoro law. (READ: Ombudsman urged to probe 'chronic absenteism in the House)
The leaders said that the regular tardiness of lawmakers that has pushed the legislative branch "into a state of paralysis."
Mamasapano probe, Jakarta attacks
Some lawmakers have also expressed concern that the passage of the BBL might be pushed back by the re-opening of the probe into the Mamasapano encounter on January 27. It marks its first year anniversary on January 25.
The police operation against foreign terrorists, which claimed the lives of at least 60 people, including 44 members of the Philippine National Police Special Action Force (PNP SAF), sparked public outrage, causing the withdrawal of some lawmakers as authors of the bill.
Since then, the BBL – the product of at least 17 years of peace talks between the Philippine government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) – has been stalled while Congress had missed the deadline for passing the bill it had set in December.
Advocates are hoping that recent events, including the terrorist attacks in Indonesia, would highlight the importance of passing the measure now.
“The Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro (CAB) and the draft Bangsamoro law are social justice measures, but from the global security perspective, these are also a containment measure against jihadist extremism,” said government panel chair Miriam Coronel-Ferrer.
Senate Franklin Drilon earlier said that the BBL is one of the priority bills the Senate aims to pass in the 16th Congress. (READ: Bangsamoro, infra bills among Senate priorities as session resumes)
'No one's giving up'
Despite these hurdles, both sides of the peace process “remain resolute” in institutionalizing their peace deal through the passage of the BBL, said laywer Al Julkipli, a government panel legal team member
“No one is giving up,” he said. “Both parties are still working towards achieving the objectives of the peace process, which is to pass a meaningful BBL that will address the two main problems (of keeping security and improving governance) in Mindanao."
Despite the short period of time left to pass the measure, Julkipli said that they “continue to trust the wisdom” of the Congress in passing the BBL into law before it adjourns.
“That is why we are still continuously coordinating and lobbying with the legislators. We are always ready to provide our support and technical assistance in defense of and in explaining the contents of the BBL in its original form,” he said.
Julkipli urged stakeholders to urge lawmakers to pass the measure, which is seen as key to achieving sustainable peace and development in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM).
“We also continue to urge everybody to continue supporting the peace process, to not give up, to lobby with our congressmen in support of the BBL,” he said. “We have to be able to make our voices be heard directly from the people.”
Regardless of what happens to the BBL, Julkipli urge the people “to remain calm.”
“We should approach this in the most active and most passionate way, in the most peaceful way that we can,” he said. – Rappler.com
Jodesz Gavilan is a writer and researcher for Rappler and its investigative arm, Newsbreak. She covers human rights and also hosts the weekly podcast Newsbreak: Beyond the Stories. She joined Rappler in 2014 after obtaining her journalism degree from the University of the Philippines.