Sotto: Senate expected to pass BBL before end of month

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Children draw peace murals outside Malacañan Palace after the conclusion of the signing of the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro between the Philippine government and the MILF on March 27, 2014.

Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, May 24) — Senate President Vicente "Tito" Sotto said the Upper Chamber is expected to pass the proposed Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) before the month ends.

In a forum on Thursday, Sotto said the Senate will fasttrack the proceedings for the BBL by allowing clarifications during the period of amendments on Monday, May 28.

"If we do that, we'll be able to pass, keeping my fingers crossed, we will be able to pass and finish the period of amendments Monday," Sotto said.

Sotto said, however, they need President Rodrigo duterte to certify the bill as urgent so they can waive the three-day rule before voting for the final reading.

"We can approve it on 2nd and 3rd reading by Tuesday or Wednesday at the latest," he said.

Both the Senate and House leaderships have asked the President to certify the BBL as urgent.

READ: Senate asks Duterte to certify BBL bill as urgent

In a separate press briefing, Presidential spokesperson Harry Roque said the Office of the President is just waiting for the Senate and House to submit similar versions of the BBL before certifying it as urgent.

"Kinakailangan po kasi yan parehong-pareho para mapabilis at kapag certified urgent yan...Hindi po na-certify as urgent kasi inantay muna kung ano yung mga bersyon ng dalawang kapulungan ng Kongreso," Roque said.

[Translation: The two versions of the bill need to be exactly the same to be certified as urgent...It hasn't been certified as urgent because we are still waiting for the versions of the Congress.]

Roque explained if the Senate and House have the same version of the BBL, they could do away with the bicameral conference committee.

He also said both chambers of Congress have promised to approve the bill before their sessions adjourn sine die on June 2.

Contentions on the proposed BBL

Sotto, however, said the Senate's version of the BBL is different from the House's. He also said the bicameral conference committee might meet during recess.

"In the Senate I think we will be able to come up with a conservative but well-crafted proposal for a Bangsamoro Basic Law. The House is much closer to what the BTC (Bangsamoro Transition Committee) submitted, so the bicam would take a lot of time I think," Sotto said.

READ: House, Bangsamoro Transition Commission to meet on BBL

The Senate President revealed the Senate still has concerns with the proposed BBL, including the block grant, special powers, the opt-in clause, and even the name of the region.

"We're all optimistic that when the President sees the Senate version, we might get the support in many of the proposals that we would want," he said.

Sotto added the BBL, once signed into law, might become the template for the federal regions if the country's government shifts to a federal system.

"So kung anu-ano ang naibigay natin, especially kung malaki ang tatamaan diyan...baka kapag napag-usapan na yung federalism at naging template ito, eh walang matitira sa national government," Sotto said.

[Translation: The national government might get nothing if the BBL becomes the template and we gave it too much power.]

READ: Road to peace in Mindanao: The Bangsamoro Organic Law

The BBL paves the way for the creation of the Bangsamoro, which will replace the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) established in 1989 through Republic Act 6734. ARMM groups the provinces of Basilan, Lanao del Sur, Maguindanao, Sulu and Tawi-Tawi.

The bill outlines authority in the region by assigning jurisdiction of reserved powers for the central government, exclusive powers of the Bangsamoro government, and concurrent powers for both the central and Bangsamoro governments.

The President has repeatedly said the BBL will help satisfy the Moro people's aspirations for real autonomy.