Osmeña: Palace 'goodies' might help sway senators to pass BBL
MANILA, Philippines – Before a meeting could happen between President Benigno Aquino III and senators on the proposed Bangsamoro basic law, one lawmaker has already cast doubts on what could transpire.
Senator Sergio Osmeña III said he will not participate in any meeting with the President.
"No need. What will I do there? Baka sasabihin lang ninyo, nakatanggap na naman ng pork barrel si Osmeña. Hindi ako pupunta (You might say that Osmeña received pork barrel. I won't go)," he told reporters on Tuesday, May 27.
Aquino said Monday he was willing meet senators to discuss the bill.
Questions about whether the President would be open to a meeting with senators came after he met with members of the House of Representatives prior to the committee voting on the Bangsamoro bill.
After the meeting, leaders of the House ad hoc committee on the Bangsamoro distributed a new copy of the bill, which contained middle-ground provisions that addressed the concerns of the President. These included the retention of the opt-in provision with amendments. That version of the proposed law became the basis of the vote.
Despite concerns that the House would not have the numbers to pass the bill following the political fallout from the Mamasapano clash, the BBL was passed 50-17 at the committee level.
Administration allies came out in full force to vote to retain key provisions and strike out other proposals in the consolidated bill. Critics slammed the House majority for allegedly railroading the bill.
Will the President have the same convincing powers over the Senate?
Osmeña said certain rewards might help.
"I will be naughty, ha? If there are some goodies, it might help with a couple of senators," Osmeña said.
Asked if the President can convince senators who are against the Bangsamoro bill, Osmeña said: "Yeah. Those who want a free meal. Masarap naman ang pagkain dun sa Malacanang eh (The food in Malacañang is great)."
Rumors that House members were bribed to vote yes to the Bangsamoro bill circulated following the committee vote – an allegation that House leaders have denied.
The House ad hoc committee chair, Cagayan de Oro Representative Rufus Rodriguez, said Tuesday the allegations was "extremely untrue and extremely unkind."
Alleged bribes to influence voting in the Senate also surfaced in connection with the impeachment trial of former Chief Justice Renato Corona. Embattled by the pork barrel scam controversy, Senator Jinggoy Estrada accused the administration of offering P50 million worth of funds to senators to convict Corona.
Meanwhile, Senator Francis Escudero, another critic of the Bangsamoro bill, is willing to participate in a meeting with the President.
He took Aquino's openness for a dialogue as an opportunity to hit the alleged shortcomings of the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process (OPAPP).
"Okay lang sa amin 'yon, it’s an opportunity para magkaroon ng engagement, subalit tila patunay ito na hindi ginawa o ginagawa ng OPAPP ang kanilang trabaho na kinakailangan pang ang Pangulo pa mismo ang gumawa ng trabaho nila," Escudero said.
(That's fine with us. It's an opportunity to have engagement, but it is proof that OPAPP did not do or is not doing their job that the President has to do their job.)
Senate President Franklin Drilon said he will await the outcome of the committee report before deciding on whether a meeting with the President is necessary.
On criticisms that the President is trying to influence legislators into approving the Bangsamoro bill – Aquino's per project – Drilon said "there is nothing unusual about the process" since the President is the political leader of the country.
Asked if the target deadline to pass the law by June 11 is still feasible, Drilon said he "would not know" until he sees the contents of the committee report.
Senator Ferdinand Marcos Jr, chair of the Senate local government committee, has said it would be "very difficult" to meet the deadline. – Rappler.com
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