Senate, House agree to pass Bangsamoro basic law before year-end

By Jelly F. Musico

MANILA, Feb. 6 (PNA) – Senate President Franklin Drilon announced on Thursday that the Senate and the House of Representatives have agreed to pass the Bangsamoro basic law before the end of this year.

The agreement was reached in a meeting with the House leadership led by Speaker Feliciano Belmonte Jr. on Thursday morning, according to Drilon.

”All of us agreed that the enactment of the Bangsamoro basic law should be made by end of this year. That is our target because we want to see 2015 as the year when we can submit this for ratification,” Drilon said in a press briefing after meeting with Bangasamoro Transition Commission members at the Office of the Senate President.

”This is our commitment on the part of the Senate and our target dates that we want to pursue seriously in both houses of Congress,” Drilon added.

Bangsamoro Transition Commission chairman Mohagher Iqbal and Office of Presidential Adviser on Peace Process (OPAPP) Secretary Teresita Deles led the delegates in the meeting also attended by Sen. Teofisto Guingona III, chairman of the Senate committee on peace, unification and reconciliation.

Drilon reminded the transition commission that the basic law should be within the four corners of the Constitution.

”That is the commitment of the President (Benigno S. Aquino III) to the people that there will be no Constitutional amendment necessary as a result of the basic law,” Drilon said.

He said the transition commission has imposed deadline on themselves to submit to the OPAPP and Office of the President the first draft of the Bangsamoro basic law before March 31, this year.

”The OPAPP and OP will go over this and will discuss informally with other sectors and we’ll be waiting in the Senate the administration version of the Bangsamoro basic law. We hope that we can have the administration bill when we come back first week of May 2014,” Drilon said.

The Senate regular session will take recess on March 15 and will resume on May 4.

Guingona, for his part, assured the full support of his committee for the passage of the Bangsamoro basic law.

”We are nearing the fruition of the long-awaited peace talks. After 17 years of hard work, finally, it will be coming to the Senate and to the House of Representatives,” Guingona said.

Iqbal thanked the Senate leadership for the support even as he assured “everybody that there is no other way except to push that there will be peace not only in Mindanao but the entire Philippines.”

”Everybody will reap the fruits of this peace. I know that with peace in Mindanao, this country can be great,” Iqbal said.

Iqbal also requested the senators for some advice and words of wisdom in crafting the Bangsamoro basic law.

”Hopefully, I’m very sure that whatever problems that would crop up from time to time, especially on the technical aspect, we will be able to overcome them,” Iqbal said.

Deles also expressed appreciation for the commitment made by the Senate and the House to pass the basic law of the peace framework agreement between the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) and the government before 2015.

”We cannot underscore how important this moment is and how grateful we are that we are part of this process,” Deles said. (PNA)