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House panels pass BBL without amendments

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by Xave Gregorio

Two House panels approved the Bangsamoro Transition Committee (BTC) version of the Bangsamoro Basic Law without amendments on Monday (April 16).

In an executive session, the House committees on Muslim affairs and peace, justice and reconciliation, voted 5-3 and 6-4, respectively, in favor of Deputy Speaker Bai Sandra Sema’s motion to pass the BTC’s BBL with all of its provisions retained.

Only the House local government committee thumbed down the motion in a 1-9 vote.

The three panels would meet again when Congress comes back from its eight-week break on May 15 to vote on the committee report, which would be sent to plenary for deliberations.

In a statement, Anak Mindanao party-list said the BTC version of the BBL is the result of all previous peace negotiations and agreements between the Philippine government and the Moro rebels.

“The BTC version of the BBL clearly holds the meaningful aspiration of the Bangsamoro people in the quest for the right to self-determination,” it said.

Anak Mindanao also said that it will reject any amendment to the BBL which would water it down.

“If the BBL will be designed to fail the gains of the previous peace agreements, then better no BBL at all!” it said.

The approval of the bill of two House panels came after President Rodrigo Duterte wrote to Congress leaders to pass the BBL, seen as the key to lasting peace in Mindanao, before the legislature adjourns sine die on June 1.

In the upper house, Senate subcommittee on the BBL chair Migz Zubiri is eyeing to end the debate on the measure one week after Congress resumes on May 15.

Zubiri also appealed to his colleagues in the majority bloc to fight amendments which would weaken the bill.

If enacted into law, the BBL would abolish the existing Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao and create a new autonomous Bangsamoro region, with its own government, but would still be part of the Philippines.

Among other things, the measure would give the region a lump sum fund of up to P72 billion each year for 20 years, establish Shariah courts for Muslim residents and create a Bangsamoro police force.

The law, once passed, would also be subject to a plebiscite every five years in the region and its contiguous areas.