BBL to be passed before Senate adjourns in March: Zubiri

MANILA — Senator Juan Miguel Zubiri on Tuesday said he expects the Senate to pass the proposed Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) before it adjourns session in March.

Zubiri, chair of the Senate subcommittee on the BBL, made this statement after he filed a new measure on the creation of a BBL version which is approved by the Bangsamoro Transition Commission (BTC).

“Today, (Tuesday) I withdrew my original bill which is not the BTC version and filed today, Senate Bill No. 1646, a BTC-approved version so that they would come and wholeheartedly participate in the deliberations,” Zubiri told reporters in an interview.

“We’d like to assure the President (Rodrigo Duterte) and the Filipino people that we are prioritizing the Bangsamoro Basic Law,” he added. “Hopefully, this will set the tone for long and lasting peace in Mindanao.”

Zubiri said his committee will resume hearings on the BBL on January 23 (Tuesday). The first hearing on the BBL was held last December 20 while the Senate was already on Christmas break.

Succeeding hearings will be held in all parts of the Philippines including Cotabato City, Marawi City, Basilan, Sulu, and Tawi-Tawi (BaSulTa)

If hearing schedules go as planned, Zubiri said, then the committee report on the BBL will be ready by third week of February.

“I’d like to finish the discussions on second and third reading by second week of March — before the break. My time line is we’re having hearings next week, we’re having out of town hearings that weekend, we have a break one week then on February 8 to 11 we’ll be back in the BaSulTa and come back to Manila,” Zubiri said.

“We’ll have the committee report ready by third week of February, right after Valentines. After which, I will bring the committee report to plenary and have at least three weeks to pass the measure,” he added.

To date, Zubiri said only two or three of his colleagues in the Senate are hesitant about their support for his measure.

“There’s only a few, maybe two or three that are a bit hesitant but the majority are fully supportive of the BBL,” Zubiri said refusing to name the senators — both from majority and minority — who were hesitant.

Zubiri, however, eventually named Senator Antonio Trillanes IV as the senator who questioned the possibility of the new Bangsamoro purchasing firearms and military equipment.

He assured him though that he could insert into the law that the new Bangsamoro entity cannot use their money to purchase weapons.

“Under the new BTC-version, their police will still be under the Philippine National Police and their armed forces will still be under the Armed Forces of the Philippines,” Zubiri said.

Zubiri said some senators still had the “old version” of the BBL in mind which had a lot of unconstitutional provisions.

He clarified that Trillanes did not “oppose” his measure but merely raised concerns.

He believes he could convince majority of his colleagues to support his measure.

The senator also said that he has also asked President Duterte to certify the BBL proposal as urgent.