By ALI G. MACABALANG
Officials have confirmed the existence of subtle campaign purportedly meant to extend the office term of appointed leaders in the Bangsamoro Transition Authority (BTA) in order for them to complete the operational structures and programs of the interim autonomous governance.
Lawyer Paisalin “Popoy” Tago, member of the BTA Parliament from Lanao del Sur, said a draft resolution moving for the postponement of the 2022 elections of officials in the regional government was floated in the regional legislature recently.
Interviewed by the Philippine Muslim Today over the phone on Sunday, Nov. 15, Tago said he was shown a copy of the draft but he inhibited from supporting it because doing so would imply “self-serving” for him and other BTA members.
Tago, a former speaker of the Regional Legislative Assembly (RLA) of the defunct Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM), is one of Presidential appointees in the 80-seat BTA.
BTA is the interim governing body of the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM).
BARMM replaced the 29-year old ARMM under R.A. 11054, which was enacted on July 24, 2018 in legal translation of two major peace deals forged by the national government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF).
The law was ratified in plebiscites held in January and February 2019, preceding President Duterte’s appointment of the BTA members and his formal inauguration of the BARMM bureaucracy on March 29 that year,
The same law mandated the phase-out of the entire personnel structure of the ARMM government, except the item positions for education, social welfare and health services.
It requires the BTA to enact regional administrative code, civil service code, education code, local government cod and other ordinances for building stronger bureaucracy.
The interim BTA members led by MILF Chairman Ahod “Hadji Murad” Ebrahim as BARMM chief minister will serve until the election of regular regional officials in the 2022 election, a political exercise supposed to be synchronized with polls for local and national officials.
MP Tago affirmed the essence of the draft resolution, particularly its intent on extending the interim BTA officials’ term of office in order for them fully lay down the foundations for a “stronger regional autonomy.”
But he added that it would be “self-serving” from BTA members to sponsor an enabling resolution.
Lanao Sur officials’ objection
Tago’s reaction was sought on a story published earlier in the Philippine Muslim Today which heralded about a purported opposition to the call for BARMM election postponement by elected mayors of Lanao del Sur led by Gov. Mamintal “Bombit” Adiong Jr.
Citing revelations from sources allied with the governor, the report said the 39 Lanao Sur mayors along with the Marawi City mayor wanted the conduct of the BARMM elections on schedule to ensure genuine electoral representation to the BARMM governance.
“The present members of the BTA are appointed (and) do not truly and fairly represent our people,” one mayor said.
Other sources said “many BTA members not only do not represent truly our people but also do not deserve to be there being not qualified.”
MP Tago clarified that the move for BARMM elections postponement did not emanate from Maranao members of the BTA, but from other representatives from other component provinces of BARMM.
Apart from Lanao del Sur, BARMM also covers Maguindanao, Basilan, Sulu and Tawi-Tawi provinces, the cities of Marawi and Lamitan and 63 villages in North Cotabato.
The officialdom of Maguindanao has reportedly endorsed the postponement move to Malacañang.
While other officials from BARMM parliament and cabinet would neither deny nor confirm the existence of the subtle campaign, the federation of Bangsamoro Community Outside Bangsamoro Autonomous Region (BCOBAR) sent to the Philippine Muslim Today a statement to say that “8 million” people it represents are calling for an extension in the office tenure of the present appointed regional officials.
“Ang gobyernong naitayo sa BARMM ay ‘hilaw pa’ at hindi pa nito nabuo ang mga parliamentary districts na pagbabasehan ng unang regular election ng mga miyembro ng Parliament sa May 2022,” BCOBAR Federation president Hadji Raisonel Magangcong said.
“Nanawagan ang pamunoan ng BCOBAR Federation para suportahan ang pagpapatuloy ng kasaluluyang liderato ng (BTA) hanggang 2025 upang tapusin ang mga tungkulin nito na nakasaad sa Bangsamoro Organic Law o R.A. 11054,” Magangcong added.
He pointed out: “Mahabang panahon pa ang kailangan para sa pagsasabatas ng Election Code, Revenue Code, Local Government Code at Education Code.” Ayon kay Magangcong and BARMM ay isang ‘unchartered political experimentation’ at kapahamakan para sa lahat kung ituloy ang halalan ng regional government sa May 2022.”
Magangcong claimed their federation’s members from 160 provinces and cities outside BARMM to include OFWs are keenly inclined to help persuade the Duterte administration to consider the postponement move.
“Kami na kumakatawan sa 8 milyong Moro sa labas ng BARMM, mas marami kami kaysa loob na 4 milyon lang (sa loob mg autonomy). Pero wala kaming boses sa Bangsamoro government,” he said.
In his statement, he said that BTA Bill 15, known as BCOBAR Bill has been pending deliberation in the parliament.
He said the bill has reportedly passed the second reading in the BTA parliament, but its final passage got stunted in the urgency for the legislature to pass basic codes and ordinances and in the advent of COVID-19 pandemic.
The bill seeks to create a regional agency particularly addressing the concerns of Bangsamoro people outside the regional autonomy in pursuit of a provision in the BOL, he said. (AGM)