EVEN Majority Floor Leader Neptali Gonzales II admits that the biggest stumbling block to the passage of the proposed Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) in Congress is the much-panned “opt-in” provision for the so-called contiguous areas of the Bangsamaro autonomous region.
That’s why, if Liberal Party (LP) stalwart Gonzales would have his way, he’d have the particular provision removed if only to make his colleagues in the House of Representatives (HOR) more amenable to the already-contentious BBL.
“Kaya ako personally, to give BBL a chance, I’m not saying an it will be easy sailing for BBL, pero matanggal yong opt-in provision eh medyo mas luluwag ng kaunti ang pagpasa nito,” the Mandaluyong lawmaker told DZBB radio in an interview.
Gonzales said the opt-in clause reflected in Section 3 of the approved Ad Hoc Committee report is easily the most controversial part of the measure, which the Aquino administration is banking on to bring peace in war-torn Mindanao. So much so that Congress is racing to beat a June 11 “deadline” for its passage.
This deadline comes roughly a month before LP Chairman, President Benigno Aquino III delivers his last State of the Nation Address (SONA)–traditionally the venue where the Chief Executive boasts of his or her government’s achievements.
Critics of the BBL claimed that the opt-in provision allows for the “creeping expansion” of the new Bangsamoro territory in the Muslim south by giving other local government units (LGUs) in the country the opportunity to join the region a few years down the road.
Under the proposed law, interested LGUs need only to file a petition backed by at least 10 percent of its registered voters in order to avail of the opt-in, which would be decided via plebiscite.
Gonzales said it’s this scenario that the his fellow congressmen “fear the most” regarding the BBL.
On the flip side, the Majority Leader claimed that some solons currently opposing the BBL have personally pledged him support for the divisive measure once the opt-in clause is stricken off.
“May mga nagsasabi sakin, ayoko nang sabihin kung sino ito pero mga oppositors ito ng BBL…alam mo naman ako as Majority Leader, ang relationship ko sa kanila ay maganda at wala kaming masamang tinapay, bumubulong-bulong sa akin yan. Tanggalin mo lang yan boss, sama kami,” Gonzales said.
The BBL will be subjected to plenary debates this week. (Randy K. Ortega)