Congress starts 5-day bicam meeting on BBL

MANILA Members of both chambers of Congress on Monday have started holding a bicameral conference to reconcile the differences between their respective versions of the proposed Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL).

The bicameral conference, spearheaded by House Majority Leader Rodolfo FariAas and his Senate counterpart Juan Miguel Zubiri, was held at Crowne Plaza Manila Galleria in Quezon City. The meeting will run until Friday.

In his opening speech, FariAas expressed hope that they could come up with the "best version of the bill" acceptable to both panels so that they could ratify it when Congress opens its third regular session on July 23 and have it signed by President Rodrigo R. Duterte during his third State of the Nation Address.

"The agreement was if we can come up and do away with all the disagreeing provisions and come up with a version acceptable to both panels... we will present it to our chambers for ratification when we open our third regular session on Monday, July 23," he said.

"If we have the ratification, we submit it to the President so the President can sign it into law in the afternoon of that same day when he delivers his third State of the Nation Address," he added.

FariAas stressed that the bicam committee should be guided by the Constitution in resolving the contentious provisions of the BBL.

"We have to ensure that everything we do and everything we do here will be compliant to the Constitution because surely this will be challenged," he said.

"It is our task to see to it that whatever we agreed and come up here will have to pass the test of constitutionality," he added.

Meanwhile, Zubiri said the Constitution should set both the latitude and delimitations of what can be incorporated in the proposed BBL.

Zubiri said apart from constitutionality, the committee should also follow the guideposts of autonomy, acceptability, social justice, and peace and development in reconciling the two versions of the bill.

"Our bicam today is beyond historical. Filipinos, not only in Bangsamoro or Muslim Mindanao, but throughout the country are watching us. They are waiting with bated breath as to the final outcome of this Bangsamoro Basic Law," Zubiri said.

"What we will accomplish today and in the next few days will be the cornerstones towards a just, lasting, and dignified peace in the Bangsamoro," he added. (PNA)

Source: Philippine News Agency