LAWMAKERS have filed bills seeking to postpone the first parliamentary election of the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM) from 2022 to 2025, effectively extending the terms of the members of the Bangsamoro Transition Authority (BTA) which serves as the BARMM’s interim government.
Maguindanao Rep. Esmael Mangudadatu, chair of the House special committee on peace, reconciliation, and unity, filed House Bill 8117 that gives the BTA another three years to ensure a smooth transition of the region to the BARMM, the political entity that replaced the old Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM).
Deputy speaker Loren Legarda and majority leader Martin Romualdez have also filed House Bill Nos. 8116 and 8161, respectively, seeking the same election postponement to 2025.
Mangudadatu, during a hearing of his panel on the status of the transition, said he agrees with President Duterte and peace process chief Secretary Carlito Galvez that the BTA needs a term extension because” it is very unlikely that they can put everything in place in a very short span of three years.”
“The transition period is inadequate for an effective transition and full realization of the CAB (Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsomoro) which was further hampered by the health crisis. This is the reason why I filed House Bill 8117 to extend the BTA’s term up to 2025,” he said.
The Bangsamoro Organic Law serves as the enabling law for the 2014 CAB signed between the Aquino administration and the secessionist group Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF).
The BOL was overwhelmingly ratified by the Bangsamoro people during a two-part plebiscite last year.
Duterte later formed the 80-member BTA to serve as the interim BARMM government in the BARMM during the transition period that will last until the 2022 elections.
Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) Chair Murad Ibrahim is the interim chief of the Bangsamoro region.
Third-Party Monitoring Team (TPMT) member Heino Marius told Mangudadatu’s panel that the transition period has been fruitful and “is fundamentally on track.”
“The Bangsamoro Autonomous Region has been established as an autonomous political entity and the foundation for meaningful self-governance in the Bangsamoro and the parliamentary form of government has been put in place and this in itself is a very big achievement. This, in spite of temporary suspension of parliamentary sessions in Cotabato as a result of the coronavirus pandemic,” he told the panel.
Marius said the political track of the peace process is also positive and despite the COVID-19 pandemic, he said the Bangsamoro administration has responded effectively, distributing relief assistance and providing for testing and isolation facilities “and in doing so demonstrating a high degree of commitment.”
He also reported that the first step in decommissioning 12,000 Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) combatants “have been completed without significant disruption, which is a genuine achievement, and preparations are underway for the remaining two batches.”
However, he said there are several elements of normalization that are lagging behind and the third round of decommissioning has not yet commenced and is behind schedule mostly because of the pandemic.
“We also expect that once the third round is started, it will take much longer to conduct due to sanitary restrictions imposed by the COVID-19 pandemic,” he said the German, who replaced Alistair MacDonald who died last year.