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By EDD K. USMAN
Short link: https://wp.me/paaccn-cDp
(SDN) — Barring any unforeseen hitch, the clamor for the resetting of the first parliamentary election in the Bangsamoro region is getting closer to realization.
That’s despite President Duterte not certifying urgent a postponement bill, professing “neutrality” in the issue. Some would say a nod to political realities.
The regular political exercise per the Bangsamoro Organic Law (BOL) was scheduled for May 2022 synchronized with the next presidential polls.
Being governed by the Bangsamoro Transition Authority (BTA) led by interim Chief Minister Ahod Balawag “Al-Hajj Murad” Ebrahim, the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM) is a new political entity (NPE) and a product of the 17-year peace talks between the Philippine government and the formerly-separatist Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF).
Out of the negotiations is the 2014 Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro (CAB) and accords, the foundation of the BOL. The BTA has a lifespan of three years, its leadership and officials appointed by Duterte in 2019.
The BARMM Organic Law, or Republic Act No. 11054, mandated the BARMM and its Parliament inside the three-year transition period to lay the ground for a fully functioning Bangsamoro government with all its required structure, apparatuses, codes and rules & regulations, etc. Then, came the coronavirus pandemic in December 2019, shooting out of the city of Wuhan, province of Hubei, China, as a global disrupter of all facets of life, including governance.
Extension not about power — Chief Minister
In the Bangsamoro government, the BTA has fallen short of its timetable for accomplishing its mandates because of restrictions per health and safety issues that impacted governmental functioning.
Thus, Ebrahim, chairman of the MILF, and the Parliament, as well as many Mindanao leaders and civil society organizations (CSOs) asked the national government to extend the transition phase of the BTA to another three years, necessarily covering the resetting of the BARMM polls to May 2025 that would give the BARMM another three years to complete its mandates.
The Senate had already concurred with the clamor, adopting last week on its third and final reading Senate Bill (SB) No. 2214.
On Monday (September 13), the House of Representatives approved on second reading House Bill (HB) No. 10121 that seeks to reset the first regular elections of the BARMM.
Over at the Senate 14 senators voted yes for the resetting led by Majority Leader Juan Miguel ‘Migz’ Zubiri and main author Senator Francis Tolentino. Three nays and one abstention.
In Congress, Maguindanao 2nd District Rep. Esmael “Datu Toto” Mangudadatu fought for HB No. 10121, which he sponsored. He said the bill was approved “viva voce” voting on second reading.
The Senate version gives the next President the power to appoint new BTA officials while the House edition retains the power to the incumbent President.
With the twin developments, hopefully these would lead to a final consolidated version for the President to sign into law.
Led by Ebrahim, the Bangsamoro leadership hailed members of Congress for providing the lift to the clamor for the resetting of the regional election.
The Chief Minister meanwhile assured everyone the extension of the BTA’s term to another three years “is never about power. Rather, it was to give due course to the bilateral implementation of the peace process, particularly on the Normalization tract.”
On the other hand, Mangudadatu pointed out that HB No. 10121 “will enable the BTA to complete its mandated legislations prescribed under the BOL, to fully implement governmental structures, and create parliamentary districts by passing an electoral code.”
BTA extension to continue normalization process
“The transition must be extended for a longer period,” said Mangudadatu, the bill’s principal author.
Mangudadatu said the Covid-19 pandemic caused the delay in the implementation of the BTA programs, not the least the bilateral normalization and decommissioning process for the 40,000 former combatants of the MILF.
Lawyer and Interior Minister Naguib G. Sinarimbo of the Ministry of Interior and Local Government (BARMM-MILG) joined the regional leadership under Ebrahim in commending and thanking the legislators.
“We thank the leadership of the House and in particular Cong. Toto Mangudadatu for his perseverance in guiding this process and for Congress in taking this important step towards ensuring that the legacy of peace is sustained in the Bangsamoro,” said Sinarimbo.
Statements from the BARMM Parliament showed regional legislators had already enacted three codes — civil service, administrative, and education. The BOL specified six priority codes for the BTA to legislate.
Since the signing of the CAB seven years ago some 12,000 combatants and their weapons were already “normalized” or neutralized, an vital step for their re-introduction into mainstream society after spending years of their lives fighting the government.
But thousands have yet to undergo the normalization process, which doing so would apparently requires the extension of the BTA’s lifespan.
The Bangsamoro people, at least the majority, for there are who were against the resetting of the BARMM election, are hoping the actions of the two chambers of Congress would result in a presidential signing of a law on the resetting and extension. (EDD K. Usman/SDN) — (✓)