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Opt-in provision is BBL killer

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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)

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Rule of law prevailed: Trillanes hails CA ruling junking revival of rebellion raps

Former senator Antonio Trillanes IV on Tuesday (March 2) hailed the favorable ruling of the Court of Appeals (CA) concerning his rebellion case.

“Today, the rule of law prevailed,” Trillanes declared.

With this, the former lawmaker also expressed gratitude to the appellate court for the favorable ruling.

“Nagpapasalamat ako sa mga CA justices na gumawa ng desisyong ito,” he stated.

“Sana all na judges and justices ay may ganitong sense of justice to check the prevailing authoritarianism in the country,” he added,

Trillanes’s petition before the CA assailed the 2018 orders of Makati City Judge Elmo Alameda to issue a hold departure order (HDO) and arrest warrant against the former lawmaker even though the same magistrate dismissed back in 2011 the rebellion case against him.

The case was dismissed by the judge in 2011 after Trillanes was granted amnesty by then President Benigno Aquino III.

The Department of Justice (DOJ) sought to revive the case before the Makati court after President Rodrigo Duterte revoked the amnesty.

Sinong guilty? Lord Velasco’s allies gang up on Alan Cayetano after ally exposes P20-B budget cut

By Billy Begas

Allies of House Speaker Lord Allan Jay Velasco slammed the camp of Taguig-Pateros Rep. Alan Peter Cayetano for his supporters’ attempt to drag the Marinduque lawmaker in the issue involving the P20 billion pension and gratuity fund of uniformed government personnel that was diverted to infrastructure projects.

Senior Deputy Speaker Salvador Leachon said it was clear based on the explanation of House Committee on Appropriations chairperson Eric Yap that the slashed P20 billion will not be used this year to pay the pension and gratuity of uniformed personnel.

“Based on Congressman Yap’s accounts, which I find to be accurate, the current problems involving the pension of uniformed retirees was due to the P70-billion cut in their budget for the year 2020, during Cayetano’s term,” Leachon said.

Yap said that the House then led by Cayetano slashed P70 billion from the 2020 national budget.

Earlier, Anakalusugan Rep. Michael Defensor said that he did not know what happened then. “Hindi ko ho alam kung nag-usap sila (House-led Cayetano and Department of Budget and Management) pero ang sigurado ko ho nagrereklamo ngayon ang DBM dahil binawasan ang pension fund.”

Yap claimed that the DBM knows the reduction of budget.

“Their unfounded allegations against Speaker Velasco boomeranged to them when it turned out the current problems faced by uniformed retirees was brought about by the more than P70 billion deducted from the 2020 PGF budget during Cayetano’s time,” said Leachon.

Defensor contradicted Leachon’s claim in a text message. “How can it have boomeranged when Chair Eric Yap admitted that they slashed the Pension and Gratuity Fund by 20 billion. They should not over complicate and over think- return the 20 billion to our military, police and uniformed personnel pension and gratuity fund.”

Defensor also challenged the camp of Velasco to show to the public that they did not use it as pork barrel fiund.

Deputy Speaker and Negros Oriental Rep. Arnolfo Teves said Defensor’s accusations were “part of an obvious attempt to antagonize Speaker Velasco.”

“It was obviously premeditated with some members of the so-called ‘BTS sa Kongreso’ present to interpellate Defensor and tried but failed to amplify the allegations against Speaker Velasco,” Teves said referring to Back To Service sa Kongreso formed by Cayetano in January.

Teves added that the game plan of Cayetano’s camp was to make Velasco “look bad in the eyes of President Duterte by attacking the Speaker on an issue very close to the Chief Executive’s heart—the pension and gratuity pay of police and military retirees.”

Deputy Speaker Lito Atienza, meanwhile, blasted Cayetano’s group for hypocrisy following the revelation of Deputy Speaker Isidro Ungab that the Cayetano-led House manipulated the 2020 national budget, which resulted in budget cuts totaling P209 billion, including the P70 billion slashed from pension and gratuity fund.

“Umaalma sila sa binawas na P20 billion na napunta naman sa COVID-19 response ng gobyerno pero ‘yung P70 bilyon at kabuuang P209 bilyon na tinapyas nila sa 2020 national budget e okay lang sa kanila,” said Atienza.

Defensor said it is not true that the P20 billion went to purchase COVID-19 vaccines.

He said that based on the copy of the General Appropriations Act, the budget for vaccines remained at P2.5 billion.

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