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Belmonte unmoved by trial balloon

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NO way, was still Speaker Feliciano Belmonte Jr.’s answer to the trial balloon  of government peace negotiator Miriam Coronel-Ferrer for Congress to pass the Bangsamoro Basic Law in time for President Benigno Aquino III’s last State of the Nation address in July.

“Some amendments are clearly needed. It is impossible to approve it as is,” Belmonte told The Standard in a text message, adding that there’s no way for the  House of Representatives to pass the controversial BBL by June.

Belmonte said the June 11 deadline set by the 75-man ad hoc committee in the House handling the controversial BBL may not be attainable given the complexities of some provisions in the measure that are said to be unconstitutional.

Belmonte reiterated that the House will not pass a peace pact that is not constitutionally compliant and it cannot approve the BBL as earlier proposed by Malacanang and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF).

“They have a super majority in the House so they can railroad the BBL, but I have reason to believe that because of the transcendental importance of this measure, there will be a conscience vote that could torpedo the  ‘tyranny  of  the majority’,” said Abakada party-list Rep. Jonathan de la Cruz,  member of the House Independent Bloc of Leyte Rep. Ferdinand Martin Romualdez.

“We hope the House leadership will act in a responsible and patriotic manner.  We will try our best in the best interest of our country and people, to make this controversial bill conform and adhere to the Constitution,” de la Cruz added.

Opposition member, 1-BAP party-list Rep. Silvestre Bello III, a former peace negotiator, echoed Belmonte’s apprehension that the June 11 deadline would be unrealistic.

“The June 11  time frame is very remote.  And the approval of the BBL without amendments or revisions is more remote,” Bello, a member of the House Minority Bloc and former justice secretary, said.

Bello noted that Congress will adjourn on March 20 for the Holy Week break and will resume session on May 4.  It will adjourn sine die on June 12.

But Cagayan de Oro Rep. Rufus Rodriguez, the ad hoc panel chair, earlier set the June 11 for the approval of the BBL at the Lower House on third and final reading.

Rodriguez also announced that his panel would resume its discussions on the BBL on March 2 as board of inquiry formed by the Philippine National Police was expected to submit its report.

Rodriguez said that during the six week session period from May to June, they would target to have the BBL measure discussed in the plenary, and approved later on by then.

But Belmonte warned that even if there will be efforts on the part of the Lower House to resume its discussions on the BBL, it is not a guarantee that the proposed measure will sail smoothly in Congress.

Belmonte and other House leaders had earlier admitted that the bloody Mamasapano incident which claimed the lives of 44 PNP-SAF commandos has adversely affected the peace process being undertaken by the government with the MILF.

The so-called conflicting and execrable provisions of the BBL include those on national defense and security, police, foreign relations, revenue or wealth sharing, justice system and the legislature.

These provisions have been seriously questioned especially after the Mamasapano incident as doubts  on the  sincerity of the MILF in forging peace with the government continued to be  raised by various sectors.

Rodriguez earlier admitted there was sufficient ground to question the legality of some provisions in the BBL, particularly the one allowing contiguous territories which are outside the core areas of the Bangsamoro.

This controversial provision allows  the  Bangsamoro to propose inclusion in the region of contiguous territories which are outside the core areas “at anytime” through a petition of at least 10 percent of the residents and approval by a majority of qualified voters in the city or province in a separate plebiscite.



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