Speaker Feliciano Belmonte Jr. delivers his speech at the opening of the Second Regular Session of the House of Representatives at the Batasang Pambansa Bldg. in Quezon City on Monday morning (July 28, 2014). (MNS photo)

Speaker Feliciano Belmonte Jr. delivers his speech at the opening of the Second Regular Session of the House of Representatives at the Batasang Pambansa Bldg. in Quezon City on Monday morning (July 28, 2014). (MNS photo)

MANILA (Mabuhay) – Despite the political fallout from the Mamasapano incident, congressional leaders have firmed up their timetable to pass the Bangsamoro Basic Law by June this year.

Senate and House leaders met Monday at the Club Filipino for their monthly consultation meeting on their common agenda. Both chambers go on summer vacation on March 18.

House Speaker Sonny Belmonte insists there is no other way but to enact the BBL.

“We have to continue with it. The alternative is what? A war again in Mindanao? We believe that is a very difficult process. A lot of people have to be convinced. I think we will have to do that… it has to conform to our Constitution. We cannot possibly pass a bill that doesn’t conform to the Constitution,” Belmonte said.

“Hindi ko masabi timelines. For instance, pagkakaalam niyo Senate will not even approve it. They recognize there’s an obligation on their part.”

Belmonte remains non-committal about having the lower chamber pursue its investigation into the Mamasapano incident, which lawmakers have said has put the Moro Islamic Liberation Front’s (MILF) integrity to question.

The BBL is meant to institutionalize the commitments under the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro.

Senate President Franklin Drilon said, “Unang una iyung Bangsamoro Basic Law pinagkasunduan namin na kailangan sasang-ayon sa ating Saligang Batas. Ngunit aming napagkasunduan na ipapasa naming ito bago matapos 2nd regular session, which means by June 30 we will have a bill which is consistent with our Constitution.

“Wala kaming pinag-usapan na specific provision. Ang aming guidance ay dapat hindi lalabag sa Saligang Batas.”

Drilon said the Senate will soon resume its deliberations on the BBL.

“The committee hearings would have to be resumed. I discussed this with Senator Bongbong Marcos, but as i said, the leadership have agreed we will pass our version before June 30,” he said.

BBL red flags

As this developed, former national treasurer and Social Watch chairman Leonor Briones warned against certain vulnerabilities in the financial aspects of the bill. These are the provisions on the bloc grant and the Bangsamoro auditing body.

Under the proposed law, the central government shall provide a block grant to the Bangsamoro. The Bangsamoro block grant shall be based on a formula provided in the Bangsamoro Basic Law which in no case shall be less than the last budget received by the ARMM immediately before the establishment of the Bangsamoro Transition Authority.

The BBL shall also provide a system of automatic appropriation for and regular release of the block grant. The formula shall be subject to review by the Central Government and the Bangsamoro Government after 10 years, on the basis of need and actual revenues generated.

The Bangsamoro auditing body shall have auditing responsibility over public funds utilized by the Bangsamoro. The BBL shall provide for a clear delineation of the Bangsamoro auditing body.

This should be without prejudice to the power, authority and duty of the national Commission on Audit to examine, audit and settle all accounts pertaining to the revenues and the use of funds and property owned and held in trust by any government instrumentality, including GOCCs.

The Bangsamoro shall ensure transparency mechanisms consistent with open government practices.

Other bills

Aside from the BBL, Drilon said both sides agreed that the House will pass in the next two weeks the Fair Competition Act which was already approved by the Senate, along with the Sangguniang Kabataan Reform Bill and amendments to the Cabbotage Law.

The Build-Operate-Transfer Law amendments will be passed by June 30.

Other priorities that have to be passed by June 30 are the rationalization of fiscal incentives the rationalization of mining incentives, Customs Mdoernization Law, the amendments to Bangko Sentral charter , the creation of the Department of Information and Communications Technology, Immigration Act, Philippine Trade Representative Offices Act and the Pagasa Modernization Act. (MNS)