The bicameral committee is expected to complete reconciled version of the Senate and House bills of the Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) by Wednesday, Sen. Juan Miguel Zubiri said.
Zubiri added the bicameral conference committee consultations with the House of Representatives contingent, led by Majority Leader Rep. Rodolfo Fariñas, will start today.
He said contentious issues in the BBL have been identified by the Senate and that amendments have been introduced.
“Hopefully, we can fix them and all that we discussed will be acceptable to all,” Zubiri said.
“Hopefully, by Wednesday we can have formal signing of the bicameral report. We will have marathon hearings Monday and Tuesday, then Wednesday we can have the clean copy for signing,” according to Zubiri.
Asked if a three-day timeline is workable, Zubiri said “it can be done if there are no delays…we will just find win-win solution.”
Zubiri stressed their amendments to the proposed BBL are not meant to water down the bill.
He said almost 150 amendments were introduced by the Senate to the original BBL.
Goal is stronger BBL
“These amendments were meant to further strengthen the BBL,” Zubiri said as he dismissed concerns that the Senate version provides for an autonomous region which is weaker than the current Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM).
“From our view, this is better than the ARMM law,” he stressed.
Among the contentious provisions of the original BBL, according to Zubiri, are the sharing of taxes, transportation and communications tax incentives and police and armed forces–noting President Duterte’s pronouncements there should only be one Philippine National Police (PNP) and Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP).
Zubiri said the Bangsamoro Transition Commission (BTC), chaired by Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) chief negotiator Mohagher Iqbal, was invited to serve as consultant during the bicameral meeting.
He cited the importance of the BTC inputs to the final report.
Amendments should be acceptable
“We have to make sure that the amendments are acceptable so that there will be peace in Mindanao. This is the final move for peace,” said Zubiri who is from Mindanao.
Zubiri added Senate President Vicente Sotto III is expected to drop by during the meeting.
“He should be there because this is a significant legislation, a landmark one. Once in a lifetime piece of legislation and he is giving support for peace,” Zubiri said.
Representing the Senate in the consultations are Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon and Senators Sonny Angara, Aquilino Pimentel III, Sherwin Gatchalian, Joel Villanueva, Francis Escudero, Risa Hontiveros, Loren Legarda, Francis Pangilinan and Zubiri, the panel head.
Apart from Fariñas, other members of the House contingent are Representatives Pedro Acharon Jr., Mauyag Papandayan, Ruby Sahali, Bai Sandra Sema, Juan Pablo Bondoc, Arthur Defensor Jr., Johnny Ty Pimentel, Eugene Michael de Vera, Rodolfo Albano III, Amihilda Sangcopan, Wilter Palma II, Celso Lobregat, Mohamad Khalid Dimaporo, Abdullah Dimaporo, Romeo Acop, Seth Frederick Jalosjos and Shernee Abubakar Tan.
President Rodrigo Duterte also expressed hopes Muslim insurgents would also put down their arms and work in finding peace in Mindanao through the BBL.
“(Moro Islamic Liberation Front chair Al Haj) Murad (Ibrahim) is just biding his time, well and good. We hope that someday we can have peace at last,” he said.
Even if the issues with the Muslim secessionist groups will be settled, the President said he will still be facing so many fronts, including a more serious and brutal enemy that is the ISIS.
“They will come here eventually. Wala na kasi silang ibang mapuntahan eh (Because they have nowhere to go to). They are now being edged out from the Middle East. The problem is, what shall these guys do next? They will look for somebody and some place in the Southeast Asia,” he said.