THE government started pressuring Congress to end deliberations of the controversial Bangsamoro Basic Law after international peace monitor Alistair MacDonald urged the legislature to pass the version being pushed by the Moro Islamic Liberation Front.
“It can still be done,” said government peace panel chief Miriam Coronel-Ferrer after MacDonald pushed the passage of a version “compliant” with the Comprehensive Agreement on Bangsamoro crafted by the team of Ferrer.
“We don’t give up. There is still hope. You don’t give up when you still see a glimmer of hope,” Ferrer said even as she admitted that the government was prepared to delay the Bangsamoro Basic Law by a year if it is not passed within the term of President Benigno Aquino III.
“We set back the roadmap by one year. That’s basically our Plan B, but the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro remains,” Ferrer said.
But opposition lawmakers chided MacDonald for blaming the delay in the passage of the BBL when the delay is actually being caused by provisions in the bill drafted by Ferrer’s team.
“Congress should not be threatened,” said House Independent Bloc leader and Leyte Rep. Martin Romualdez. “All of us here support peace, but we have to ensure also that we will pass a constitutional and not a half-baked BBL.”
Romualdez, president of the Philippine Constitution Association, said it is the duty of Congress “to ensure that every piece of legislation it passes, including the controversial BBL, complies with the Constitution and is not legally flawed.”
Isabel Rep. Rodolfo Albano III slammed MacDonald for the remark and stressed that the government is partly to blame for rushing a proposed law that is flawed.
“We cannot be pressured by anyone, by anybody. We will do our legislative function based on the Constitution and not because somebody says so,” Albano said.
“The problem lies with the GRP panel also. When the BBL came to Congress, it says ‘it’s up to Congress to work on the draft’. But when lawmakers already introduced amendments to the proposed peace measure, they will tell us stick to the original draft. What’s that?” he asked.
“Sorry, you are not Congress. So just leave us alone and let lawmakers do their job,” Albano told MacDonald.
Former justice secretary and ex-peace negotiator Silvestre Bello III, now a congressman for the 1-BAP party-list group, blamed Malacañang for the delay in the deliberations.
“Malacañang made a tactical error when they gave Congress a proposed BBL that is full of legal and constitutional infirmities,” said Bello, a House deputy minority leader.
But House Speaker Feliciano Belmonte, Jr. acknowledged Congress’ delay in the passage of the BBL.
“It’s a difficult situation, considering we are just entering the period of amendments,” Belmonte said.
But Belmonte maintained that Congress cannot just pass the BBL as is.
The congressmen criticized MacDonald after he released a statement on Sunday raising “concerns about the delays in the legislative process,” the “content of any BBL which might be adopted by Congress” and the “continuity of the process, if indeed a BBL cannot be passed under this administration.”
MacDonald said there should be an intensified effort to promote the passage of a “CAB-compliant” BBL.
“It is difficult to look forward, at a time when there are so many uncertainties as to whether a BBL will be passed, whether if passed the BBL will be compliant with the CAB, and whether if not passed the next administration will be committed to carry forward the process,” MacDonald said.
MacDonald said the observations arose from after meeting with MILF members, led by Chairman Murad Ebrahim and the MILF Central Committee, on the rebel side and Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process Secretary Teresita Quintos-Deles on the government side.
Last year, Romualdez and his group filed a 26-page petition before the Supreme Court seeking to declare the Framework Agreement on the Bangsamoro and the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro unconstitutional.
But the Supreme Court dismissed as premature the petition filed by the Philconsa challenging the constitutionality of the proposed BBL.