BTA MP Mohagher Iqbal Warns of Consequences of Lack of Equal Political Playing Field in the Bangsamoro Region 

“The journey towards a real democratic region shall be in vain unless the Bangsamoro people will level the political playing field in the region.”

— Minister of Parliament Mohagher M. Iqbal


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COTABATO CITY — A top official of the Bangsamoro Transition Authority (BTA) has warned of the consequences of what he called a “lack of political playing field” in the Bangsamoro region.

BTA Member of Parliament Mohagher M. Iqbal. He is also the Bangsamoro government’s minister of education. (Photos via MBHTE)

Mindanao peace process stalwart Mohagher M. Iqbal, reappointed as BTA member of Parliament (MP) and as head of the Ministry of Basic, Higher and Technical Education (MBHTE), spoke before the Maguindanao Plebiscite Coordinating Conference (MPCC) conducted on Thursday, August 18, 2022 at the Al-Nor Convention Center here in the city.

“The journey towards a real democratic region shall be in vain unless the Bangsamoro people will level the political playing field in the region,” Iqbal warned during the MPCC, a statement apparently addressing not just the attendees but the entire population of Maguindanao, one of the component provinces of the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM).

He was one of the key speakers at the event the objective of which was to discuss salient matters relevant to Republic Act (RA) No. 11550, otherwise known as an “Act Dividing the Province of Maguindanao into Two (2) Provinces, namely: Maguindanao Del Norte and Maguindanao Del Sur”. Whether the split of the province would be realized depends on a plebiscite to be held next month on September 17.

The three-year-old BTA headed by Interim Chief Minister Ahod Balawag “Al-Hajj Murad Ebrahim governs the BTA which has an Executive Branch and Legislative Branch (Parliament). Interim as it is, the BTA’s lifespan was extended for another three years until, unless renewed again.

Established in 2018 by the Bangsamoro Organic Law (BOL) to implement the 2014 Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro (CAB), the BARMM territory is made up of Basilan, Lanao del Sur, Maguindanao, Sulu, and Tawi-Tawi, the cities of Cotabato, Lamitan, and Marawi, as well as the 63 villages collectively dubbed Special Geographic Area (SGA) that voted “yes” in a plebiscite in January and February 2019.

The BARMM population per the Philippine Atlas has 4,404,288 people. It has 116 municipalities: Basilan, 11 municipalities; Lanao del Sur, 39; Maguindanao, 36; Sulu, 19; and Tawi-Tawi, 11. Its component cities are Cotabato (the regional center and capital) in Maguindanao; Lamitan in Basilan; and Marawi in Lanao del Sur.

The then President Rodrigo R. Duterte signed RA No. 11550 in May 2020. In the law, Maguindanao del Norte will be made up of the municipalities of Barira, Buldon, Datu Blah Sinsuat, Datu Odin Sinsuat (to be the capital), Kabuntalan, Matanog, Northern Kabuntalan, Parang, North Upi, Sultan Kudarat, Sultan Mastura, and Talitay.

On the other hand, the municipalities comprising Maguindanao del Sur are  Ampatuan, Buluan (designated as the capital), Datu Abdulla Sangki, Datu Anggal Midtimbang, Datu Hoffer Ampatuan, Datu Montawal, Datu Paglas, Datu Piang, Datu Salibo, Datu Saudi Ampatuan, Datu Unsay, Gen. Salipada K. Pendatun, Guindulungan, Mamasapano, Mangudadatu, Pagalungan, Paglat, Pandag, Rajah Buayan, Sharif Aguak, Sharif Saydona Mustafa, Sultan sa Barongis, Talayan, and South Upi.

Iqbal recalled that in the last May 9 National and Local Elections, the MBHTE organized a special task force to complement teachers’ work in the various voting precincts.

“Our teachers and staff participated in orientations to understand the gravity of the role. But, more importantly, these orientations reiterated the do’s and don’ts to avoid violations that can question the integrity of the May 2022 elections and obstruct Moral Governance,” Iqbal emphasized.

Iqbal urges BARMM voters to go out and vote on plebiscite day

He complimented the work of the BARMM teachers for job done well.

“I am proud to say that despite the challenges associated with the election season and the threat of Covid-19, our teachers managed to perform their mandates quite well,” he added.

At the same time, the MBHTE minister was hopeful the incoming plebiscite will exemplify core ethical values such as transparency, accountability, honesty, impartiality, and respect.

He implored the people of Maguindanao to exercise their rights to vote and contribute to the conduct of an honest and clean plebiscite and “witness an important event in our history as an autonomous region wherein they will decide for the province’s fate.”

The BTA’s transition started in 2019 with the Parliament mandated to pass six vital measures, such as Bangsamoro Administrative Code, Bangsamoro Local Government Code, Bangsamoro Education Code, Bangsamoro Electoral Code, Bangsamoro Revenue Code, and Bangsamoro Indigenous Peoples Code.

It is expected that upon the expiry of the BTA’s extension the Parliament shall have been able to put in place and completed the transition from the now-defunct Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM), which the BARMM through the BOL abolished and replaced. (/)

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