THE House panel tasked to study the proposed Bangsamoro Basic Law committed Wednesday to delete the provision which will allow the Bangsamoro territory to expand following opposition from some lawmakers.

Cagayan de Oro City Rufus Rodriguez, panel chairman, said the committee acceded to the suggestion of House leaders including Speaker Feliciano Belmonte Jr. to remove the provision, which he described as a tool for "creeping territorial expansion."

"I myself would propose it in the period of amendments,” Rodriguez said.

The opt-in provision under Article III Section 3 of the BBL approved by the House ad hoc committee allows provinces and cities adjacent or contiguous to the Bangsamoro to opt-in for inclusion by petition and ratification in a plebiscite by their voters.

Petitions to join the Bangsamoro could be considered only during the fifth and 10th year of existence of the Bangsamoro, the political entity that will replace the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao.

With the opt-in provision finally out of the equation, Rodriguez believes that several lawmakers previously opposing the measure will change their minds.

“Now the opt-in will be out, now I think they are all for peace, they want to end the 43 years of war in Mindanao. I think most of them now will vote in favor of the bill, not the original one but the substitute bill,” he said.

He also hopes that the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), whose peace deal with the government gave rise to the proposed measure, will accept the amendment.

“It is the best we could give them. Imagine if we approve the original version and it gets declared unconstitutional, we’ll go back to square one,” said Rodriguez.

Congress has already pushed back its deadline of passing the BBL from June 10 to October as the bill is still undergoing refinements in the Senate and House of Representatives.

Rodriguez said the bill must be passed before the election fever heats up during the filing of certificate of candidacy for elective posts.

“After October 15, it will be difficult to muster a quorum because people will be running for elective posts,” he said. (Sunnex)