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Extension of MILF-led BARMM government’s transition period garnering support
By EDD K. USMAN
(SDN) — Just over a year before its impermanence expires, extension of the transition period of the Bangsamoro government has started to gather steam.
Some members of the two chambers of Congress have voiced their support, especially that the pandemic which emerged in December 2019 has “greatly affected and undeniably delayed” the BARMM Organic Law.
Over at the Senate, administration Senator Aquilino “Koko” Pimentel III had already filed a bill seeking the extension.
The solon from Mindanao filed the first bill on January 25, 2021, asking for the extension of the Bangsamoro Transition Authority’s (BTA) transition period.
Pimentel’s measure with a kilometric title is Senate Bill No. 2019, “An Act Amending Section 13 Article XVI of Republic Act 11054, entitled ‘An Act Providing for the Organic Law for the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao,’ Repealing for the Purpose Republic Act No. 6734, entitled ‘An Act Providing for the Organic Law of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao’ as amended by Republic Act 9054, entitled ‘An Act to Strengthen and Expand the Organic Act for the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao,’ and Setting for the Purpose the First Regular Election of the Bangsamoro Government.”
Another three years for transition to BARMM government
His legislative measure seeks to modify Section 13 Article XVI of the Bangsamoro Organic Law (BOL): “the first regular election for the Bangsamoro Government under this Organic Law shall be held and synchronized with the 2022 national elections.”
In related development, Senator Richard Gordon also filed Senate Bill No. 2025 with the same intent with Pimentel’s bill. The extension sought is for another three years, that’s until 2025.
Even opposition Senator Riza Hontiveros has likewise expressed her support to the call for extension, according to the Bangsamoro Information Office (BIO).
In effect, what would be extended is the term of office of the 80 appointed BARMM officials led by Interim Chief Minister Ahod Balawag “Al-Hajj Murad” Ebrahim.
The BTA has a three-year life span; Ebrahim and the Bangsamoro Parliament members are seeking another three years to continue the implementation of the Bangsamoro Organic Law (BOL), which is based on the 2014 Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro ((CAB).
Ebrahim is chairman of the former revolutionary organization — the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) — which fought an internecine war for the separation and independence of Southern Philippines. The MILF — after 17 years of protracted negotiations — later agreed through the CAB to scale down the separatist rebellion to a stronger autonomy, resulting in the creation of the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM) in 2019.
President Duterte biggest supporter of clamor for extension
At the House of Representatives, some congressmen agreed with the call for extension of the term of the new political entity’s appointed officials through a postponement of the scheduled first elections in 2022 for the first batch of BARMM elective officials.
President Rodrigo R. Duterte is the biggest backer of the call for the transition’s extension. His administration accomplished what was deemed an impossible dream under previous administrations, the passing and enactment of the BARMM Organic Law. His sheer political will saw it through as his allies in both the Senate and the House rallied behind him.
Last year in November, Presidential Spokesman Harry Roque said the President will help in amending the (BARMM) law, at the same time adding it would be on the Bangsamoro officials to speak with congressmen (for their help).
Roque revealed that Duterte’s advice is to make the extension by virtue of a law as a law dictated an election for BARMM officials.
Maguindanao (2nd District) Rep. Esmael “Toto” Mangudadatu filed House Bill No. 8117 on December 1, 2020, to reset the BARMM political exercise, in effect extending to three more years until 2025 the transition period as well as the term of the regional Parliament’s officials.
MNLF cites more time for lasting BARMM foundation
Three other company House leaders each introduced separate measures with similar intent, such as Deputy Speakers Loren Legarda and Isidro Ungab, and Majority Floor Leader Martin Romualdez.
Not to left out is the group of the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) led by its chairman, Muslimin Sema, who pointed out the current BARMM officials would need another three years to complete the process of transitioning from the unlamented ARMM (Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao) to a full-pledge Bangsamoro government.
Both Congressman Ungab and Sema, a former vice chairman of the MNLF under Founding Chairman Nur P. Misuari cited the onset of the global coronavirus pandemic as having set back the transition period.
“Over and above that is the need for enough time for the MNLF and MILF’s complementary efforts to achieve a long lasting foundational governance that will run BARMM,” said Sema, former mayor of Cotabato City, now a component area of the Bangsamoro autonomy.
Earlier, in November 2020 to be exact, the interim Bangsamoro Parliament passed urged Congress through Resolution No. 332 to extend the transition period, citing the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic that broke out in December 2019.
The ministers of the Parliament said this resulted to lack of time in putting in place an effective implementation of the transition, citing programs, projects, and services.
“While the BTA has taken significant strides in its service as the interim government in the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region, the sheer weight of its mandate and the amount of work that it entails, coupled with shortfalls in resources and placed in the context of continued security threats , and further complicated by the effects of a lingering pandemic, the 3-year transition period is simply not enough to accomplish its targets,” the resolution said.
Lamitan City chief executives voice support, too
Support for the extension had also come from the League of Municipalities of the Philippines (LMP), Tawi-Tawi Chapter, and the province’s Sangguniang Panlalawigan as well as Maguindanao’s Sangguniang Panlalawigan.
Catholic leader Orlando Quevedo, OMI, DD, a much respected religious leader by Christian, Muslim, and Lumad people and North Cotabato Governor Nancy A. Catamco have also come out in support of the clamor.
While in Sulu some political leaders oppose the extension, there are those who support it in the province, among them Rep. Abdulmunir M. Arbison, the Save Sulu Movement (SSM), etc.
The mayor and vice mayor tandem of Rosita and Roderick Furigay of Lamitan City, Basilan, are also supporters of the clamor, saying three years is not enough for their work to institutionalize the foundations of just and lasting peace.
It can be recalled the Mindanao People’s Caucus (MPC), a civil society organization (CSO) heavy in support for the peace process in Mindanao, fired the first shot in the clamor for extension of the BTA after its “rapid review of the transition period. (/)