BTA MP Omar Sema Bats for Full Biometrics in Bangsamoro Electoral Code

By EDD K. USMAN | Twitter: @edd1819Instagram: @bluestar0910 | Facebook: SDN — Scitech and Digital News

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CROWN PLAZA GALLERIA, Ortigas Center, Pasig City, October 20, 2022 — Lawyer Omar Yasser C. Sema, deputy speaker of the Bangsamoro Transition Authority (BTA) Parliament, today, Thursday, batted for a full adoption of biometrics elections in the Bangsamoro region.

BTA Minister of Parliament (MP) Atty. Omar Yasser C. Sema raises a point in the first day of the public consultations in Manila. On his left is MP Atty. Lanang T. Ali, Jr. (Photo: Scitech and Digital News)

More consultations will follow in the Bangsamoro region to get the people’s pulse and involve them in the political process.

The BEC is one of the seven priority codes which the Bangsamoro Parliament must pass during the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM) transition period.

BARMM’s transition period — from 2019 to 2022 — was supposed to lapse after the first regular elections of the region shall have taken place. But owing to the impact of the pandemic, at least partly, the BTA was not able to complete all its tasks, thus, former President Rodrigo R. Duterte approved and signed the law that mandated the regional election’s resetting in May 2025, and extending the BTA’s term.

The extension of the BTA’s life came following the clamor of the BARMM leadership, such as Chief Minister Ahod Balawag “Al-Hajj Murad” Ebrahim, BTA Parliament Speakers Ali Pangalian M. Balindong, and the rest of the regional government’s officials, as well as various civil society organizations (CSOs), and individual Mindanao leaders.

BTA Parliament Floor Leader Atty. Bai Sha Elijah B. Dumama-Alba, chairperson of Committee on Rules. (Photo: SDN — Scitech and Digital News)

Some Members of Parliament (MPs) led by Floor Leader Atty. Sha Elijah B. Dumama-Alba, chairperson of the Committee on Rules, “invaded” what Mindanao leaders call “Imperial Manila” for the public consultation on the BEC, the first of a series of consultations leading to the enactment of the region’s electoral code.

The BARMM is comprised of the provinces of Basilan, Lanao del Sur, Maguindanao del Sur, Maguindanao del Norte, Sulu, and Tawi-Tawi, and the cities of Cotabato, Lamitan, and Marawi, as well as the 63 barangays in North Cotabato collectively called the Special Geographic Area (SGA). Voters of the 63 villages opted to be under the Bangsamoro government’s jurisdiction in the plebscite held in January and February 2019. North Cotabato is not part of the BARMM.

The Bangsamoro Organic Law (BOL) created the BARMM as a new political entity (NPE) to implement the 2014 Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro (CAB), the peace treaty the Government of the Philippines (GPH) and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) signed after 17 years of protracted negotiations often derailed by fighting.

The BARMM per Philippine Atlas has five provinces (now six), three cities, 116 municipalities, and the SGA villages. Its population as of 2020 is pegged at 4,404,288. Basilan has 11 municipalities; Lanao del Sur, 39; Maguindanao del Sur and Maguindanao del Norte, 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.

Sema sees the importance of the adoption biometrics in the conduct of political exercises in the Bangsamoro region.

Members of Parliament Mohagher M. Iqbal (left) and Mosber Alauddin of Basilan, in a relax mood after the day’s consultation proceedings. Iqbal and Alauddin are some of the MPs who came to Manila for the public consultations on the proposed Bangsamoro Electoral Code (BTA Bill No. 29). (Photo: SDN — Scitech and Digital News)

“The electoral code must contain a provision for strict implementation of a fully Biometrics elections to ensure credible, honest and genuine electoral process,” he emphasized.

He also raised questions on the role of public schoolteachers in regional elections.

“It must be settled also whether public school teachers should still serve during the parliamentary elections,” Sema suggested.

The Parliament conducted the public consultation for national government agencies (NGAs) in Manila, among them, the Commission on Elections (Comelec), Philippine National Police (PNP), House of Representatives with some congressmen sending in their representatives to speak on their behalf.

Dumama-Alba asked those who verbalized their positions during the hearings on the BEC to submit a written version of their comments / reactions to the Parliament on or before October 30, 2022.

Here are the resource persons who attended and spoke on the first day of the Public Consultations of the Committee on Rules of the BTA:

1. Comelec
a. Atty. Akia Co II, Attorney VI
2. Philippine National Police 
a. Deputy Director for Operations, PBGEN. Alan C. Nobleza
3. Office of Cong. Mohamad Paglas, 2nd District, Maguindanao and Cotabato City:
a. MR. Paul H. Pineda
4. Office of Cong. Bai Dimple Mastura, 1st District, Maguindanao and Cotabato City:
a. Chief of Staff Atty. Jelena Sebastian
5. Office of Cong. Mujiv Hataman, Lone District, Basilan:
a. Ms. Shiela Myra Abdulmajid
6. Office of Cong. Munir Arbison Jr., 2nd District, Sulu
a. Fraizer s. Juljani, Legislative Researcher
7. Office of Cong. Yasser A. Balindong, 2nd District, Lanao del Sur
a. Atty. Noel T. Tiampong, Chief of Staff

Officers of the Philippine National Police (PNP) led by Deputy Director for Operations Brig. Gen. Alan C. Nobleza attended the public consultations. (Photo: SDN — Scitech and Digital News)
Sema added that in the Bangsamoro people’s life, at least political life, the BEC “is important.”
“We are levelling the political playing field by ensuring a more democratic and genuine political exercise of their right to suffrage under a parliamentary system of government.
He says passing the electoral code “is part of our task make sure that the people understand the process,” while conceding that achieving political maturity among the BARMM population takes time.
“It will be a labor of love for both the BTA Parliament and the people to learn, and understand, and put to practice the provisions of the Bangsamoro Electoral Code,” Sema, one of the children of now Ministry of Labor and Employment (MOLE) Minister Muslimen G. and Bai Sandra Sema.
Tomorrow, Friday, Dumama-Alba said the consultation will continue with 18 resource persons representing various civil society organizations (CSOs). (✓)

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