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Solons heed Duterte’s call on BBL, cut short vacation

Lawmakers reportedly have cut short their summer vacation in response to President Duterte’s call to prioritize the proposed Bangsamoro Basic Law, going back to work and hold an executive session to fine tune a consolidated BBL bill.

The House committees on local governments, on peace, reconciliation and unity and on Muslim affairs met yesterday to vote on individual amendments to the draft substitute bill entitled: An Act Providing for the Basic Law for the Bangsamoro and Abolishing the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao.”
The proposed substitute bill seeks to expand the coverage of Republic Act 6734 or the Organic Act for the ARMM. It will consolidate four different BBL proposals filed by Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez; Deputy Speaker Bai Sandra Sinsuat Sema and Reps. Gloria Macapagal Arroyo (Pampanga); Mohammad Khalid Dimaporo (Lanao del Norte); Mauyag Papandayan Jr. (Lanao del Sur); Ruby Sahali (Tawi-tawi) and Wilter Wee Palma (Zamboanga Sibugay).
Before resuming deliberations yesterday, the joint panel had been conducting executive sessions to debate on sensitive provisions of the measure, particularly proposals that could bring about constitutional contest in the future.
Jointly chaired by Reps. Pedro Acharon Jr. (South Cotabato); committee on Muslim affairs headed by Rep. Mauyag Papandayan Jr. (Lanao del Sur); and special committee on peace, reconciliation and unity under Rep. Ruby Sahali (Tawi-Tawi), the panel eyes approval of a consolidated bill as soon as Congress resumes session on May 15.
If finally presented on first reading by May 15, the House will have at least until May 30 to pass the measure.
The May 30 target was sought by Duterte during a recent meeting with Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez, Senate President Aquilino Pimentel III, Senate Majority Leader Vicente Sotto III and Sen. Manny Pacquiao.
Earlier, the Visayan bloc, an organization of 42 congressmen representing congressional districts and partylist groups in the Visayas, yesterday declared its support to the swift passage of the BBL “that is consistent with the provisions of the Constitution.”
Headed by lead convenor and Negros Occidental Rep. Alfredo “Albee” Benitez, the Visayan bloc issued its manifesto of support a day after the President met with congressional leaders and officials of various Muslim organizations to discuss the legislative proposal that is widely seen as the formula that will put an end to the secessionist war in the south.
“We, the members of the Visayan bloc of the House of Representatives, express our support to the immediate passage of a Bangsamoro Basic Law that is consistent with the provisions of the Constitution,” the Visayan solon said.
“We firmly believe that the BBL will pave the way for long-lasting peace and socio-economic development in the proposed Bangsamoro region by allowing the establishment of a regional government that is anchored on the Bangsamoro identity,” read the manifesto.
The lawmakers added: “It is high time that we give our fellow Filipinos in the said region an opportunity for self-governance and to fully recognize their needs and aspirations.”
Benitez said the multi-party Visayan bloc also appealed to their Lower House colleagues to “expedite and support the immediate passage” of the measure.

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