SPEAKER Pantaleon Alvarez on Saturday assured local officials and members of sectoral organizations in the predominantly Muslim province of Maguindanao that the House of Representatives will pass the proposed Bangsamoro Basic Law when Congress resumes session in May.
Alvarez made the commitment in his message to around 2,000 individuals from Maguindanao who took their oath as new members of the Partido Demokratiko Pilipino in simple rites held at the Southern Mindanao Institute of Technology in Tacurong City, Sultan Kudarat.
The mass oath-taking was organized and hosted by Deputy Speaker Bai Sandra Sema, the PDP council president for Maguindanao.
“We would have wanted to pass the BBL before we went into a break last Wednesday but we ran out of time,” Alvarez said.
But Alvarez vowed that the House will give top priority to BBL upon the resumption of session of Congress.
“Let me assure you that when we return from our sessions, after the break, we will give it priority and we will pass it in the House of Representatives,” said Alvarez.
His comment drew applause from the new PDP members, particularly representatives from the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF). These two rival secessionist groups had since entered into a peace pact with the government.
President Rodrigo Duterte earlier urged the leaders of both the House and the Senate to pass BBL to address the root causes of the Moro rebellion in Mindanao.
“This problem has plagued Mindanao for so long. It’s time we give this problem a solution to achieve lasting peace in the entire Mindanao,” Alvarez said.
Alvarez noted that the goals of the proposed BBL, which is to give autonomy to the Bangsamoro people and empower them to chart their own destinies, are the same objectives of PDP’s advocacy for federalism.
Under a federal setup, Alvarez said the provinces or states will retain the lion’s share of their revenues and control over their natural resources, empowering them to provide better opportunities for their people.
“That is why, it is very important for us to achieve the shift to a federal system during the term of the President because if it does not, this may not happen at all,” Alvarez said. He noted that among the candidates in the 2016 presidential elections, only Duterte advocated for federalism.
To bolster the chances of success of federalism, Alvarez stressed the need for PDP members to support in the 2019 elections the party’s senatorial candidates and those from other parties supporting federalism. On the other hand, Alvarez said party members should reject senatorial candidates who are opposed to the idea of federalism.
He noted in an ambush interview with the local media that the House can muster enough votes to ensure the approval of proposed charter change for a shift to a federal form of government, which might not be the case in the Senate.
“It is only now that we have a President who espouses federalism. That is why we should unite and support our President,” Alvarez said.