Fariñas says BBL, Cha-cha on top of House legislative agenda

Written by Marc Jayson Cayabyab - Reporter.

The passage of the Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) will come first before Charter Change to allow Congress to revise the provisions in the 1987 Constitution that could go against the bill creating a Bangsamoro homeland.

Ilocos Norte Rep. Rudy Fariñas
INQUIRER PHOTO / GRIG C. MONTEGRANDE

House Majority Leader Rudy Fariñas had this to say after the Congress leaders’ meeting on Wednesday at Edsa Shangri-La Hotel, where they talked about the common bills topping the legislative agenda during the second regular session of the 17th Congress.

LIST: Anti-Endo, Anti-discrimination laws top legislative agenda of 17th Congress 

Fariñas said Congress will prioritize the revision of the 1987 Constitution and the BBL during the second regular session.

But the passage of the BBL will have to go first so that should the BBL have provisions that may be unconstitutional, the Constitution may be amended once Congress convenes in a constituent assembly (con-ass), Fariñas said.

READ: Preparations for federal shift to keep Congress busy next year

“We agreed that in terms of the Bangsamoro Basic Law it might require constitutional amendments. Kung yung gusto ng mga kapatid nating Muslim, hindi naman pwede ipasok kaagad (If that is what our Muslim brothers want, it’s not easily inserted) under the present Constitution. We will identify which constitutional provisions will be affected by this para yun na yung unahin namin na i-amend muna (so that is what we will amend first),” Fariñas said.

The Bangsamoro Transition Commission recently turned over the new draft of the BBL to President Rodrigo Duterte, who would in turn endorse the bill to the Senate and the lower House.

READ: Duterte to support ‘constitutional’ Bangsamoro

Fariñas said Congress will act to revise the Constitution to pave the way for a federal form of government without waiting for the President’s appointment of the constitutional commission (con-com), which would have aided Congress to write a working draft of the revised charter.

READ: Duterte issues EO creating body to review Constitution 

Fariñas said even though Congress will be the one to propose amendments through a technical working group, the revised Constitution would be put under the people’s scrutiny for ratification in a plebiscite.

“The technical working group will be the one to make inputs for us as a working draft. Pag-uusapan namin yan (We will talk about it),” Fariñas said.

Fariñas denied that Congress is “tinkering” with the highest law of the land.

“You cannot tinker with the Constitution. You cannot do anything with the Constitution without the approval of the people. Congress can only make proposals to amend or revise the Constitution,” Fariñas said.

“Ultimately it will be the people who will decide whether any word or period of the Constitution can be changed. Our constitution is a rigid Constitution nobody can touch it without the will of the sovereign,” he added.
Earlier, Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez said he wanted the 17th Congress to convene itself in a con-ass in January or February next year to pitch in amendments to the 1987 Constitution.

READ: Congress to convene for charter change next year – Alvarez

The ball is rolling for charter change in the lower House, especially after the House constitutional amendments committee passed a concurrent resolution calling on Congress to convene in an assembly to propose amendments to the 1987 Constitution.

READ: Con-ass hurdles House Charter change committee

President Duterte won the elections in a campaign for a federal form of government, seen as an alternative to the BBL, which seeks to put up a more autonomous Bangsamoro region.

READ: Duterte: Federalism an alternative to BBL

The passage of the BBL, a centerpiece legislation during the Aquino administration and a result of the peace talks between government and Moro Islamic Liberation Front, was derailed during the 16th Congress due to lack of quorum, in an apparent loss of confidence on the MILF whose fighters were involved in the botched Mamasapano operation that killed 44 Special Action Force cops. JPV

READ: House leader gives up hope on BBL passage: We failed next generation