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COTABATO CITY (SDN/BARMM Media) — A total of 15 senators voted to pass on third and final reading Senate Bill (SB) No. 2214 as they granted the clamor of the Bangsamoro leadership and civil society to reset to May 2025 the region’s first regular political exercise.
Minister Naguib G. Sinarimbo of the Ministry of Interior and Local Government (MILG), one of the line agencies of the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM), welcomed this positive development.
Led by BARMM Chief Minister Al-Hajj Murad Ebrahim, the leadership of the nascent regional government along with Parliament, Mindanao civil society organizations (chiefly the Mindanao People’s Caucus, MPC), various dignitaries, as well as the region’s population have been clamoring for the extension of the three-year term of the Bangsamoro Transition Authority (BTA), which governs the Bangsamoro government.
Principal among their reasons is lack of sufficient time to implement fully the BTA’s mandate laying the grounds for a full-pledged regional government. Add to that the almost two years coronavirus pandemic that disrupted every facet of life, including political, economic, and social. Movement was highly curtailed due to quarantine and lockdowns.
The BTA started it’s three-year term in 2019 and is supposed to lapse in 2022.
Now the Senate under the leadership of President Vicente “Tito” Sotto III has done its vital part on the extension clamor. Being awaited is SB No. 2214’s complementary bill in the House of Representatives.
Sinarimbo said the Senate “voted to pass on third and final reading Senate Bill No. 2214 resetting the BARMM elections and, thereby, extending the BTA and transition period to 2025.”
He lauded the Senate’s action as he looks forward to achieving peace and development.
“This bill will ensure that we set the course for the newly established Bangsamoro Autonomous region towards an irreversible course of peace and development,” the MILG head and BARMM spokesman pointed out.
Sinarimbo thanked the leadership of the Senate, in particular Senators Francis Tolentino and Juan Miguel Zubiri, for the historic move.
In a press release, the BARMM said that with 15 affirmative votes, three negative votes, and one abstention, the Senate on Monday (Sept. 5, 2021) approved on third and final reading the bill postponing the first regular elections of the BARMM from May 2022 to May 2025.
SB 2214 proposed to defer polls in the region and extend the term of the BTA for another three years, and amending the Bangsamoro Organic Law (BOL), or Republic Act No. 11054, the law that created the BARMM, a product of the over 17 years peace negotiations between the Philippines government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF).
The measure also states that “upon the expiration of the incumbent members of the BTA, the President shall appoint its 80 members who shall serve up to June 30, 2025, or until their successors have been elected.”
“The passage of this measure will give us a chance to continue working towards attaining peace in the region and fully realizing the promises of the Comprehensive agreement on the Bangsamoro (CAB),” Tolentino, chair of the Senate Committee on Local Government and principal author of the bill, said.
SB 2214 is a substitute bill to SBs 2019 and 2025 introduced by Senators Aquilino “Koko” Pimentel III and Richard Gordon.
“Adding three more years to the transition period is nothing compared to the four decades of violent conflict and almost two decades of grueling negotiations between the government of the Philippines and the MILF,” Tolentino emphasized.
With the bill’s enactment, he believes the BTA would have enough time to complete its mandated duties during the peace-keeping process.
“They should finish the electoral code this coming 2022 to ensure the orderly conduct of elections come 2025,” he continued.
The electoral code is among the six priority legislation the Bangsamoro Parliament needs to pass during the transition period.
Of the six measures, the BTA has legislated three — administrative, civil service, and education code.
The electoral, local government, and revenue codes are yet to be passed in the plenary.
3 senators torpedoed extension bill
Members of the Parliament had earlier expressed their gratitude to the Senate for “shepherding the process” of the bill’s passage.
According to them, all senators who participated and raised concerns during the deliberation of the proposal had made a substantial impact on the bill’s enactment.
“We are grateful to the senators who have chosen to provide ample time and space for the transition authority to fulfill its mandate and in effect secure the hard-earned gains of the peace process rather than to subject our people yet again to a routinary political exercise which often creates disunity in our region,” Bangsamoro Parliament Deputy Speaker Zia Adiong said.
The press release noted that Senators Panfilo Lacson, boxing hero Manny Pacquiao (a son of Mindanao himself), and Senate President Pro Tempore Ralph Recto rejected the measure. Senator Imee Marcos abstained
Meanwhile, on August 26, the committees of Suffrage and electoral reform, Muslim Affairs, and Peace, Reconciliation, and Unity of the House of Representatives approved the committee report containing the consolidated proposals to extend BARMM’s first regular elections. (✓)
Featured image of Senate Seal credit to Wikipedia.