“We cannot bungle and mess up with what is otherwise a simple postponement of the BARMM election. Let us not complicate things,”
— Senate Minority Leader Franklin M. Drilon
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COTABATO CITY (SDN/BIO) — With these words, top opposition figure Senate Minority Leader Franklin M. Drilon has given his nod to the clamor of the Bangsamoro Transition Authority (BTA): the extension of its life for another three years until 2025.
The term of office of the appointive officials of the BTA running the government of the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM) is set to expire with the national elections in May 2022. Expiration of their tenure would mean election for those will come after them.
Ahod Balawag “Al-Haj Murad” Ebrahim leads the BTA as its Interim Chief Minister, with over 80 ministers and legislators, among others. He is the chairman of the now-non-revolutionary Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), whose Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro (CAB) peace pact with the Philippine government (GPH) paved the ground for the creation of the parliamentary BARMM government.
The Bangsamoro Parliament headed by Speaker Ali Pangalian Balindong led the call for extension, supported by Ebrahim and the rest of the BARMM officialdom, as well as various quarters and civil society leaders in Mindanao.
Chief among the reasons they cited for the call is the impact of the coronavirus pandemic in the implementation of the BARMM’s various agenda, saying it affected the timetable in laying down the Bangsamoro’s governmental foundation.
Civil society organizations (CSOs) also led the petition for a million signatures to request President Rodrigo R. Duterte to certify transition bills in Congress as “urgent”. The petition was already submitted to Malacanang.
In Congress, some senators and congressmen have voiced support for the extension to 2025 of the BTA transition period. Now, Drilon, long been stalwart in the Senate, has added his voice.
The senator from Iloilo has strongly called on his colleagues in the Upper Chamber to speed up the passage of the legislation seeking to extend the transition period in the Bangsamoro until 2025 “to provide stability in the region.”
“We cannot bungle and mess up with what is otherwise a simple postponement of the BARMM election. Let us not complicate things,” Senator Drilon said.
He also backed Senate Majority Leader Juan Miguel Zubiri’s proposal to maintain the current composition of the BTA by eliminating Section 2 of Senate Bill 2214, which outlined how the 80 seats are allotted to various representatives.
“Correct me if I am wrong, but my reading of my colleagues within the chamber is that everyone would have agreed to have the elections postponed to achieve the aspirations of peace, unity, genuine autonomy, and the development of the BARMM region,” he added.
Senator Zubiri proposed simplifying the bill by including only the provision postponing the first regular elections in the BARMM from May 2022 to May 2025.
“With that, I think we can have [the] law passed within the next two days,” Senator Drilon said.
The interest of the Bangsamoro region and the country, he said, is best served by extending the BTA’s existence and resetting the BARMM elections to 2025.
Senator Drilon noted that in 2012 the Supreme Court upheld the constitutionality of Republic Act (RA) 10153 or the bill that synchronized elections in the ARMM with national and local elections at the time.
“Para sa mga kasamahan ko po ‘wag na tayong mag-alala because we have sufficient legal basis to postpone the elections,” he explained.
(Translation: To my colleagues let us not worry because we have sufficient legal basis to postpone the elections.)
While the proposed bill is still in the period of interpellation, Senator Francis Tolentino, the measure’s sponsor, has already provided a “cleansed version of Section 2” in the hopes that the intent will dispel the false information that sprouted last week.
Section 2 of the proposed bill as read by Senator Tolentino says, “During the extension period the Bangsamoro Transition Authority, led by Moro Islamic Liberation Front and without prejudice to the participation of the Moro National Liberation Front and its membership, shall continue the interim government in the BARMM provided that the BTA shall prioritize its mandated duties under Section 4, Paragraph A of Article 16 of RA 11054.”
Under the proposed bill, members of the BTA will be composed of the following:
- 41 members from MILF;
- Six (6) members from MNLF;
- 21 members from the BARMM LGUs, namely two (2) from Basilan, five (5) from Lanao del Sur, four (4) from Maguindanao, two (2) from Tawi-Tawi, four (4) from Sulu, one (1) member each nominated from the cities of Marawi, Cotabato, and Lamitan and barangays in North Cotabato;
- Two (2) members each nominated by Non-Moro Indigenous Peoples;
- Two (2) members from settler communities; and,
- One (1) member each from women, youth, traditional leader and Ulama.
Senator Tolentino, for his part, underlined that the BARMM could not hold elections without the Bangsamoro Electoral Code and determination of the parliamentary districts.
“The job that we have right now is to lay the foundation for orderliness beyond 2022 to achieve a certain measure of approximation and certainty to achieve the purpose of the Bangsamoro Organic Law,” he said. (SDN/Publication and Media Relations Division, BTA) — (/)
Featured image of BARMM Government Center in Cotabato City credit to Wikipedia.