By Roy Mabasa
Presidential spokesperson Harry Roque on Tuesday clarified that President Duterte did not put any timeframe for Congress to convene a special session to discuss the Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL).
Roque was reacting to made by some senators who said a special session is unlikely to happen before the yearend citing the need for more hearings and debates on the matter.
“He (President) didn’t say when he will actually call for the special session. He only emphasized that if need be, he will call Congress for a special session,” Roque told reporters at a briefing in Malacañang.
In fact, the Palace spokesperson pointed out that the bill is still in the committee level, “so we expect the we have time for Congress to discuss the BBL.”
The President, he adds, “did not intend or did not limit the timeframe this year or the remaining part of December.”
During his speech at the first Bangsamoro assembly in Maguindanao on Tuesday, the President called on Congress to convene a special session to allow all the stakeholders to present their respective platforms before the body and to the Filipino people.
“I will work very hard for it. I will ask Congress to (hold) a special session just to hear you talk about this issue. I said this is sacred. This is important and valuable. It would involve eventually, if the people wish it, a new structure for the entire country,” Duterte said.
When asked if it needs to be a joint session of both chambers of the legislative, Roque said: “It does not matter because what is important only is that if they run out of time a special session is required for Congress to meet as a body, doesn’t have to be a joint session.”
Roque said there is no requirement that it should be a joint session. He, however, said that a special session is required when Congress ran out of time and if they are to approve bills.
“I don’t want to pressure Congress right now but I think they have received the message that this is one of the top priorities of the administration,” he said.
Furthermore, Roque clarified that what the President meant by “one republic” in his speech in Sultan Kudarat on Tuesday is to have “one political entity known as the Republic of the Philippines.”
“The relationship of the proposed Bangsamoro entity will be with the Philippine government. We are not allowing any cessation. We are not allowing the creation of a new state,” he said, adding that any arrangement will be “within the framework of the Republic of the Philippines.
Roque, who served as a party list representative prior to his appointment as presidential spokesperson, said they leave to Congress to debate and determine the areas that would be covered by the Bangsamoro entity.
“But as I said, we would not want to preclude Congress. Let Congress debate it because it is Congress that is a deliberative policy, a policymaker,” he said.
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