18th Congress adjourns regular sessions sine die

PUNCHLINE

with Ali G. Macabalang

High hopes for the passage of bills deferring the 2022 election of members of the Bangsamoro Parliament have, I should say, died in the second regular sessions of the 18th Congress.

For its part, the Senate declared past 7p.m. Thursday its adjournment sine die, adopting beforehand Resolution No. 15 for a three-member team of senators to formally inform Malacañang and the House of Representative about the upper chamber’s session recess. Sine die is a Latin term that means “without day.”

The Senate adjourned session one short of the June 4 much-heralded schedule, setting aside its earlier announced intention to pass on second reading Senate Bill 2214 before the adjournment. .

Senate Bill 2213, introduced by Senator Francis Tolentino, seeks to reset the 2022 election of regional parliament members to 2025 in order to extend the lifespan of the Bangsamoro Transition Authority (BTA) for three more years.

It substituted and harmonized the similar bill earlier authored by Senators Dick Gordon and Koko Pimentel, who both proposed for the same regional polls postponement and BTA interim operational period.

Sen. Tolentino, who has been backed up by legal minds from the BARMM, exerted every possible effort to fulfill the Senate leadership’s earlier plan to pass the bill on second reading before the adjournment. But the enthusiastic trend was overwhelmed by reports reaching Senators that the counterpart House bill has been “stalled” at committee level.

Senator Ping Lacson, who was the last to engage Sen Tolentino in the interpellation period, prominently mentioned about the absence of a categorical “go signal” from President Duterte for Congress to legislate the poll-postponing measure with dispatch.

Thousands of people have been mobilized to campaign for a Presidential certification of the bill as an urgent measure, even as a multi-sector group had painstakingly staged a campaign to muster one million signatures to persuade the Chief Executive.

The campaign has even exceeded the one million mark by 200,000 more signatures from supporters, who were of high hope that the President would make the usual urgent push in keeping with a public notion that the creation of BARMM forms part of his administration’s top legacies.

Earlier reports said the House and Senate leaderships have a standing commitment to pass their bills in their special sessions once the President gives a categorical signal.

The 18th Congress will resume regular sessions tentatively on the third week of July in time for the delivery of the last State of the National Address (SONA) of President Duterte.

PRRD’s final SONA would be more meaningful had he signaled Congress to extend the BTA lifespan, and dramatize more his unfulfilled commitment to “correct historical injustices” in the Bangsamoro community.

Nonetheless, proponents and supporters for longer BTA interim operations are still hopeful that the 18th Congress will pass the regional poll-deferring measures before the filing of candidacies on October 1 to 8 this year for the May 2022 synchronized local and national elections.

Meanwhile, Sen. Tolentino maintained that regardless of Congress decision, it will be “impossible” for the BARMM to have its first election of 80 regular Parliament members due to some legal deficiencies.

He cited at least three reasons elections would be impossible next year. One, the BTA parliament has yet to enact an electoral code. Two, the BARMM’s parliamentary districts have yet to be apportioned yet. And three, the region has yet to create a registry of voters. AGM

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