THE 32-member Visayas bloc in the House will withdraw its support to the proposed Bangsamoro Basic Law if the Palace will not delete at least 11 “killer provisions,” including the “opt-in” provision, group leader Alfredo Albee Benitez said Sunday.
House Speaker Feliciano Belmonte Jr. also expressed surprise that the opt-in provision, which was deleted by the 75-member House ad hoc special committee on the BBL, was brought back in when the plenary started tackling the Palace-drafted measure.
“The members of the Visayas bloc have agreed we cannot support the BBL if it contains unconstitutional provisions,” Benitez told reporters.
“We found 11 provisions that are deemed illegal,and one of them is the opt-in provision.”
Benitez made his statement even as Malacañang said it is continuing to have talks with the House leaders for the BBL’s possible passage.
“Talks are continuing with the leaders and members of Congress for the passage of the Bangsamoro Basic Law that would be in response to the needs of the public and to establish peace and development in Mindanao,” Communications Secretary Herminio Coloma Jr. told dzRB radio.
“The consultations between House Speaker [Feliciano] Belmonte [Jr.] and other members of Congress, including the minority led by Congressman [Ronaldo] Zamora, are continuing.”
Coloma said the members of Congress, including the critics of the proposed law, had been given enough time to express their position in the plenary debates on it.
The opt-in provision is also being opposed by Mindanao lawmakers, and particularly Zamboanga City Rep. Celso Lobregat whose city was not among those included in the provinces that will comprise the Bangsamoro. But the BBL requires 10 percent of its constituents to vote whether or not they want to choose to be a member.
“Contrary to what the opt-in provision says, my city is not contiguous to the territory that will comprise the Bangsamoro, so there is no need to make us vote for inclusion,” Lobregat said.
Benitez said the Visayas bloc will ask the House leadership to drop the opt-in provision and other provisions that run contrary to the Constitution.
“I myself was surprised when I found that the opt-in provision was retained when the panel, chaired by Cagayan de Oro Representative Rufus Rodriguez, already deleted it. However, it found its way back in the plenary debate,” Belmonte said.
“The House leadership has already agreed to remove the opt-in provision, and we are asking the Palace to understand that the majority of the House members are against it.”
Belmonte said the opt-in provision was serving as a stumbling block in the BBL’s approval.
In light of what happened in Mamasapano, where 44 Special Action Force commandos were massacred, Benitez said, the Visayas lawmakers were finding it difficult to push for the passage of the BBL.
“We sympathize with our fellow Mindanao lawmakers that the BBL would not prevent the Mamasapano massacre from happening again. But it would at least mitigate the repeat of the massacre once the unconstitutional provisions were removed,” Benitez said.
Belmonte could not say if Congress could pass the BBL under the Aquino administration.
He said the plenary debates on the BBL would resume upon the resumption of sessions in January.