The bicameral conference committee for the proposed Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) approved late last night the autonomy measure for approval of the Senate and the House, thus putting the bill near the administration’s target for the bill’s passage. The goal was for the signing of the BBL prior to the third State of the Nation Address (SoNA) of Mr. Duterte on July 23. It took the bicam more than a week to reconcile the House and Senate versions of the bill resulting in some heated exchanges between members. The House and the Senate are expected to ratify the bicameral conference committee report during the opening of the 3rd session of the 17th Congress. Duterte is expected to sign the proposed Bangsamoro measure into law just hours before the SoNA. The final BBL version will be named the Bangsamoro Organic Law that will abolish the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) and replace it with the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao. The proposed region would be composed of the current ARMM, Tawi-Tawi, Sulu, Basilan, Maguindanao and Lanao del Sur plus six municipalities of Lanao del Norte and 39 barangays of North Cotabato. The new province and their municipalities would have to vote for inclusion in the Bangsamoro region. Members of the Bangsamoro Transition Commission (BTC) threatened to walk out from yesterday’s bicameral committee deliberations on the Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) to protest the preamble and powers of government portions of the proposed act. The timely intervention of Senate Majority Floor Leader Juan Miguel Zubiri averted what could have been a serious turn of event in the BBL deliberations. Members of the BTC, apparently on the side of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), threatened to walk out, Zubiri said. Zubiri suspended the proceedings after receiving text messages from the BTC members on their intention to walk out from the consultations. The BTC was protesting the wording of the preamble and the repeated mention of “national government” in the powers of government provision. “So, I have to suspend the proceedings immediately because there are serious implications in the peace agreement if they stand up and walk away,” Zubiri said. In the preamble, the BTC wanted to put “We the Bangsamoro people” instead of the bicameral committee’s proposed “We the Filipino people.” Don’t impose on Congress Zubiri said his House counterpart, Majority Floor Leader Rodolfo Farinas, stressed the Bangsamoro people cannot impose on Congress and that it should be the Filipino people “ordering the legislation.” “We have to explain to the Bangsamoro people that we are not diminishing their recognition of the Bangsamoro in their aspirations. It is just a matter of style, a matter of wording that is constitutionally compliant,” Zubiri added. Farinas said it was the Filipino people who created the Congress of the Philippines and under Article 10 of the Constitution, it is the mandate of the Congress to legislate the enabling act to govern the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao and the Cordilleras, subject to the Constitution and national laws. Charter should be followed “All of us took an oath to support and defend the Constitution of the Philippines. We have to abide by it. We know what you aspire for but we can’t include all of it because of the Constitution, so they understood,” Fariñas said, referring to the BTC representatives.