THE THIRD regular session of the 17th Congress opened on Monday amid an ouster plot against House Speaker Pantaleon D. Alvarez, upsetting the anticipated ratification of the Bangsamoro Organic Law (BOL).
At the Senate, on the other hand, the BOL was ratified as expected.
The House of Representatives (HoR) abruptly adjourned session around 11:30 a.m., eschewing any possible motion to unseat Mr. Alvarez and missing the targeted approval of the BOL in time for President Rodrigo R. Duterte’s third State of the Nation Address (SONA) in the afternoon.
The suspension was prompted by Deputy Majority Leader Juan Pablo P. Bondoc, who moved for an adjournment. Camarines Sur Rep. Rolando G. Andaya, Jr. was opposing the motion when Deputy Speaker Gwendolyn F. Garcia approved the adjournment until 4:00 p.m. for the SONA.
Ms. Garcia confirmed that the ouster of Mr. Alvarez was “touched upon very briefly” during the caucus ahead of the resumption of session.
“That’s on the floor, that will be decided by each congressmen. If there will be (a motion) I’m sure may mag o-object (there will be an objection),” Ms. Garcia told reporters in a chance interview.
Akbayan Rep. Tomasito S. Villarin, for his part, said he does not think the BOL was intentionally set aside, “it’s only that it was taken over by intramurals within the administration coalition.”
Mr. Villarin added that “the longer that these intramurals will not be resolved,” other priority legislative measures will be “sacrificed”.
Presidential Spokesperson Harry L. Roque, Jr., in a statement, expressed disappointment over the HoR’s failure to ratify the BOL, but assured that the measure will be signed by the President soon after it is ratified.
Mr. Duterte, in his SONA, also assured that he is prepared to sign the SONA within 48 hours of receiving the ratified copy.
“We consider this as a temporary setback in the administration’s goal of laying the foundation for a more genuine and lasting peace in Mindanao,” Mr. Roque said.
Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process Jesus G. Dureza, in a separate statement, pointed out that the BOL’s non-ratification was due to the sudden adjournment and “had nothing to do at all with some substantive issues of the proposed law.”
At the Senate, sessions opened with the ratification of the BOL, which Senate Majority Leader Juan Miguel F. Zubiri said marked the “dawn of a new beginning for Muslim Mindanao.”
“A dawn of peace followed by unhampered prosperity for our nation that I’m sure that will catapult our economy to double digit growth rates and the effects felt all throughout the country,” Mr. Zubiri also said.
“The entire process we went through, the deliberations of the bill, the public hearings in Mindanao, the arguments for provision of provision was tedious and at times frustrating,” Senator Ana Theresia N. Hontiveros-Baraquel said.
“The ratification today is a testament to our commitment of the democratic process. It is a sign that sometimes the system works,” she added. — Charmaine A. Tadalan