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Drilon nixes BBL bicam rush to meet SONA deadline

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by Xave Gregorio

Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon said the bicameral conference committee reconciling the differences between the House and Senate versions of the Bangsamoro Basic Law should not rush its work to meet its self-imposed deadline to finish before President Rodrigo Duterte’s State of the Nation Address (SONA) in two weeks.

Drilon, who is a member of the Senate contingent to the bicameral conference committee holding week-long meetings to thresh out conflicting provisions in the law, said he would rather be thorough in the deliberations on the measure than rush to make it in time for the SONA.

“We will try to finish it before the SONA. But that should not be a deadline. Rather, we should deliberate and study it well, because this is a document that can spell the difference between peace and stability and conflict in the Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao,” he said in an interview at the sidelines of the bicameral panel’ meet at a hotel in Pasig City.

The opposition senator said the body would still want to finish its work in time for Duterte’s SONA, but added that he does “not know what will happen in the next several days.”

The panel was originally scheduled to meet for the whole week, but House Majority Leader Rodolfo Fariñas, who co-chairs the body, told House reporters through messaging app Viber that meetings may still continue until next Monday (July 16).

His fellow co-chair, Senate Majority Leader Juan Miguel Zubiri, said in a chance interview Tuesday evening (July 10) that the bicameral conference committee has finished work on provisions on the powers of government, taxes and fiscal matters, public order and national security and the Bangsamoro parliament.

Discussions on the provisions of the Bangsamoro’s Shari’ah justice system are still ongoing with a subcommittee headed by Drilon and Deputy Minority Leader Eugene Michael De Vera.

Selected members of the bicameral conference committee would be heading to the Malacañang this afternoon to settle issues on the Bangsamoro territory and the plebiscite before Duterte as district representatives continue to block its inclusion in the final BBL.

Zubiri has said district representatives want to exclude 39 barangays of North Cotabato and the six municipalities of Lanao del Norte from being part of the Bangsamoro region out of fear that they would lose territory.

But Lanao del Norte 1st District Rep. Khalid Dimaporo told reporters here said he rejects the provision because the local government would lose control over the peace and order situation in the areas which would fall under the Bangsamoro.

“For example there, kidnapping sa coastal areas, we have to work in the interior. Eh kung malabas na ‘yan sa amin, habulin ko mga criminals, I can no longer do that kasi I have to coordinate with the Bangsamoro chief minister. Ano mangyayari sa mga Christians if they feel that they cannot be protected by their government? Then they will bear arms,” Dimaporo said in an interview.

“At any motion that will come from the interior papatayin nila and that happened before. There were massacres by the Christians of Muslims in the coastal towns of Lanao del Norte,” he continued.