Aquino willing to meet senators on Bangsamoro bill
MANILA, Philippines – President Benigno Aquino III said Monday, May 25, he is willing to speak with senators to discuss the proposed Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL).
He will, however, await the signal of Senate President Franklin Drilon if it's necessary to do so.
"Ayoko naman sabihin nila nakikialam ako sa kanila dahil independent body sila. So kailangan balansehin kung – at ang masasabi ko lang mula sa panig ko: kung gusto nila ako kausapin tungkol dito para hindi naman ako nanghihimasok, inimbita nila akong magbigay ng opinyon sa isang pagpupulong, bakit hindi natin gawin iyon? Handang-handa tayo doon," Aquino told reporters.
(I don't want them to say I'm meddling in their affairs since they are an independent body. So I need to balance if – and all I can say from my side is: if they want to talk to me about this in a way that would not be intrusive, if they can invite me to give my opinion in a meeting, why can't we do that? We are ready for that.)
The proposed law is on the final stage of discussions at committee level in the Senate. Meanwhile, the bill has been referred to the committees on appropriations, and ways and means, in the House after the special committee created to discuss the bill passed it on Wednesday, May 20. The next stage for the bill is plenary discussions.
Although the House of Representatives is on track to pass the bill before Congress adjourns session on June 11, Senator Ferdinand Marcos Jr, chair of the Senate local government committee, said the Senate is not likely to beat the deadline.
The House ad hoc committee on the BBL introduced major amendments to the BBL but retained crucial provisions on how the regional government would operate and be funded in the committee version. The Senate, however, has given indications that it will overhaul the bill, with Senator Miriam Defensor Santiago maintaining her stand that the BBL is unconstitutional. (READ: Senate, House panel chairs differ on key BBL provisions)
Aquino reminded legislators about the urgency of passing the bill as soon as possible to give enough time for the transition from the current Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) to the parliamentary Bangsamoro autonomous regional government proposed under the BBL.
"For example, if you have a fish pond and you put fingerlings in it then you come back a week after and say, 'Wait, it seems like they did not grow,'" Aquino said.
The Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) will lead the transition body, marking their official entry to mainstream politics away from the rebel orientation. The group signed a peace accord with the government in March 2015 after 17 years of negotiations.
Both the MILF and the Aquino administration hope to install the Bangsamoro government by 2016 before Aquino steps down from office. – Angela Casauay/Rappler.com
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