Senate to prioritize BBL as session resumes

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Wednesday, July 23, 2014


SENATE President Franklin Drilon said Wednesday that the Bangsamoro Basic Law will be given the highest priority at the opening of Congress next week.

In an interview, the Senate Chief said under his leadership, the Senate will focus on needs of the Filipino people which is the national budget, the education bills, and the Anti-Unfair Competition are included among the Senate priorities.

"Whenever it [Bangsamoro Basic Law] is submitted, we will work hard so that we can meet the target ratification by second half of the next year, so we can have the government in place once this administration ends in June of 2016," Drilon said.

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According to Drilon, it is vital for the present government to make sure that the necessary move for stabilization of Mindanao particularly our Muslim brothers will be given as part of Aquino government accomplishment.

"We cannot afford to fail as far as the Bangsamoro Basic Law is concerned. We must have something in place so that the Bangsamoro Basic Law will provide stability and improvements in the economic life of the region," he said.

Drilon urged both parties, which is the government and Moro Islamic Liberation Front to come up with an agreement.

"Pare-pareho tayong mga Pilipino. Kailangan natin magkasundo para sa kapakanan ng lahat, sa ating kinabukasan," he said.

He said that it is important that everyone keep an open mind on various issues, and that the agreement be consistent with the Constitution.

"It is critical that we come up with an acceptable solution for both sides," Drilon maintained.

Drilon said that the Bangsamoro government should be in place when the administration comes out in 2016.

"Yuon ang ating timetable. Kailangan may bagong tayong istraktura na para sa Bangsamoro sa pagtapos ng termino ng Pangulong Noynoy Aquino," he said.

Drilon further said that the Senate will be working on the national budget.

"We will be working on the national budget. By the time that we will work on the budget, I assume the DAP issue would have been already decided by the Supreme Court. So under the guidance of the Supreme Court rulings on the motion for reconsideration, we will be drafting the national budget," he said.

The Senate Chief also said that education bills are critical element in economic development with regards to manpower and human resources as he added that the Senate will continue to push for the amendment of the Sandiganbayan Law.

When asked to explain further on the Anti-Unfair Competition Act, Drilon said it is important to pursue a law that will protect each and every businessman and regulating competition is one of the major solution.

Meanwhile, Drilon also confirmed that the Senate has received the suspension order of Senator Jose Jinggoy Estrada.

Drilon said the Senate will fully implement the Sandiganbayan's decision to suspend from office detained Senator Estrada, who is facing plunder and graft charges in connection with the alleged pork barrel scam.

The Sandiganbayan's Fifth Division ordered a 90-day suspension against Estrada, currently detained at the PNP Custodial Center.

Drilon said the “Senate will abide by the process in accordance with the Constitution and the laws.”

"By the very order, it says that the suspension is effective immediately unless a motion for reconsideration is filed. The senator has 15 days to submit a motion. We will act accordingly once the Sandiganbayan has disposed of the motion if one is filed, or if none, by the end of the 15 day period, which began since I received the copy last Friday," he said.

Aside from Estrada. Senate Minority Leader Juan Ponce Enrile and Senator Ramon Bong Revilla are also facing the same charges before the Sandiganbayan.

On the issue of Enrile's statement that he will question the suspension order, Senator Drilon said under a democracy, everyone has the right to appeal for what they believe is right but the senate chief also said that the issue has been decided by no less than the Supreme Court.

"That issue has been decided when the Supreme Court made a distinction between the power of the Senate to punish its members and the preventive suspension. There is a very basic difference. The power of the Senate is to impose a penalty, which is suspension for 60 days. What the Anti-graft Law could do is a preventive suspension," he said.

Drilon s said that the Senate has no choice but to implement the preventive suspension.

"That is also the decision of the Supreme Court. The Sandiganbayan has also no discretion on this. It really has to be imposed," Drilon said.

The penalty of suspension, according to Drilon, is governed by the institution, of the Senate, which is supreme. Only the Senate can impose the penalty for its members for 60 days.

"On the other hand, the Anti-Graft Law is applicable to all government officials, and is a preventive suspension for 90 days. By its very nature, its purpose is to prevent the respondent from using his office to influence the investigation. There is no penalty in that, since that is only imposed by the Senate. The Supreme Court was clear on that," he said. (Camille P. Balagtas/Sunnex)

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