By Arjay L. Balinbin
THE SENATE is set to tackle at least five priority bills when sessions resume in January 2018, according to Senate President Aquilino L. Pimentel III.
“Come January 2018, we will work on the Anti-Terrorism Law, a law creating the National ID system, a law providing Universal Health Care, the Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL), and a measure that would convene Congress as a Constitutional Assembly and pave the way for the shift to Federalism,” Mr. Pimentel said in a statement on Thursday, Dec. 28.
The BBL and Federalism are two of the most contentious measures being pushed by the administration of President Rodrigo R. Duterte.
In a press briefing last week, presidential spokesperson Herminio Harry L. Roque, Jr. said the president believes that if the BBL “doesn’t pass the test of constitutionality, then we can resort to further autonomy.”
“And of course, there is still federalism. Because obviously, if it is declared unconstitutional then the remedy is to amend the Constitution,” Mr. Roque said. “So it’s something that stakeholders must consider also, whether or not they will insist on the BBL first or wait until the Constitution has been amended. But the President is being true to his promise to everyone that he will pursue BBL.”
Both President Duterte and Senator Pimentel belong to Partido Demokratiko Pilipino-Lakas ng Bayan (PDP-Laban), which advocates participatory and consultative democracy and federalism.
Sought for comment, Maki T. Datu-Ramos II, a former public lawyer who has worked as a legal consultant of one of the commissioners of the Bangsamoro Transition Commission, said among the “contentious issues in BBL will be the territorial expansion” of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) through a plebiscite.
“That would be constitutionally problematic because mother territories from respective LGUs (local government units) where constituents or officials of barangays, municipalities or cities subject for plebiscite might raise a constitutional issue before the Supreme Court,” said Mr. Ramos, a Maranao from Lanao del Sur, one of the ARMM provinces.
Meanwhile, Mr. Pimentel also expressed his gratitude to the Filipino people “for their continued trust in his leadership of the Senate” as the latest Social Weather Station (SWS) survey showed that he achieved a “good” net satisfaction rating at +49, up three points from the +46 he received in the Third Quarter 2017 Survey.
“I am grateful for the continued confidence shown in me by the Filipino people. My wish is that my colleagues in the Senate and I can keep their trust in 2018 as we work harder to improve the quality of life for all,” Mr. Pimentel said.