Bills stalling 2022 BARMM polls filed to extend BTA reign

By Ali G. Macabalang

Maguindanao 2nd District Rep. Esmael “Toto” Mangudadatu has filed a bill postponing the 2022 election of parliament members of the new regional autonomous government and seeking a longer lifespan for the Bangasamoro Transition Authority (BTA) to accomplish fully its legal mandates.

Rep. Mangudadatu, according to his legislative staff – Beverely Ballitoc, filed House Bill 8117 on Tuesday, Dec. 2, around 6:20p.m.

On the same evening, Rep. Loren Legarda and House Majority Floor Leader Martin Romualdez filed similar bills, Ballitoc said in a Messenger message to the Philippine Muslim Today.

Tonight (Wednesday), meanwhile regional spokesman Naguib Sinarimbo said in a Facebook post that “the proposal to extend the period of transition in the Bangsamoro to complete important tasks in the transition has formally moved in the house and in the senate.” But he did not mention any specific senator(s) filing corresponding bill.   

In an introductory message for his bill, Rep. Mangudadatu said the crafting and filing of the measures preceded some hearings among stakeholders by the Committee on Peace, Reconciliation and Unity he chairs.

In the hearings, he said, “we found out that many more important (tasks) and commitments agreed upon have not been completed or (fulfilled yet) both by the national government and BTA (as well as the) MILF (Moro Islamic Liberation Front) because of many constraints and difficulties, the worst of (which are those) caused by COVID-19.”

BTA EXTENSION BILL FILED IN CONGRESS. Maguindanao Rep. Esmael Mangudadatu listening to OPAPP Sec. Carlito Galvez Jr. in conveying President Duterte’s manifest support to extending the BTA lifespan to 2025 on Nov. 25, five days before the lawmaker filed a bill stalling the 2022 election of 80 regional parliament members. (Facebook)

Unfinished Normalization and Government Tracks

Rep. Mangudadatu was referring to specific tasks mandated in the normalization and governmental (political) tracks provided for in R.A. 11054, the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM) charter, and the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro (CAB), which the government and MILF forged in 2014.

The normalization track mandates the decommissioning of the MILF’s 40,000 members, mostly combatants, to turn them into civilian citizens in peaceful and productive fashions. The entire MILF membership is supposed to be fully decommissioned on or before the lapse of the three-year BTA lifespan that ends upon the election in 2022 of the regular members of the 80-seat parliament.

Rep. Mangudadatu told the Philippine Muslim Today on Nov. 23 that the government has been able to pay instantly only P100,000 of the P1-million rehabilitation package committed for each decommissioned MILF member, on the days of their ceremonial decommissioning.    

The payment of the remaining P900,000 has been delayed because the national government’s attention has been drawn to emergencies in the advent of the COVID-19 pandemic, for which much of the national resources have been spent, he said.

The unpaid 900,000-peso commitment covers P400,000 for the healthcare, education and other basic supports for children and dependents of each decommissioned MILF member and P500,000 for construction of decent house for each beneficiary family, he said   

In another recent revelation, BARMM spokesman and Local Government Minister Naguib Sinarimbo said only about 12,000 of the MILF’s full membership have been decommissioned.

In corroboration, BARMM Executive Secretary Abdulraof Macacua told the Philippine Muslim Today that it would not be possible for other MILF members to undergo decommission if their already demilitarized comrades were not paid fully of their shares from the P1-million government package.

As supplementary income for those decommissioned, Macacua said the Ministry of Environment, Natural Resources and Energy (MENRE) has absorbed some 2,000 of them as forest rangers, nursery workers and seedling planters under the regional Greening program. Macacua, concurrent MENRE minister, is also chief of staff of the Bangsamoro Islamic Armed Forces (BIAF), the MILF’s combat wing.

Another major concern being considered in the proposed transition extension is the delayed enactment by BTA of all codes on administrative structure, civil service, education, local government, electoral processes, taxation and other legislations needed to build strong foundations for better autonomous governance, Sinarimbo and Macaua said.

Only the BARMM administrative Code has been enacted into law last month by the BTA. Other regional codes remain under deliberation in processes equally saddled by social movement restraints imposed in the campaign against COVID-19.

Presidential support

In a podcast on Nov. 13, BARMM Chief Minister Ahod “Hadji Murad” Ebrahim has admitted that his administration has not a “major success” yet, something that may impede MILF-fielded candidates under the United Bangsamoro Justice Party (UBJP) to obtain votes in the 2022 election for regional parliament members.

By “major success,” Ebrahim was referring to a completion of the tasks in building a full-blown autonomous entity under the government track and the full transformation to civilian and productive life of all MILF members.

Amid challenges for achieving the two major tracks, Ebrahim expressed support to recommendation by the Mindanao People’s Caucus (MPC) for an extension in the BTA lifespan. The MCP reportedly made the recommendation after its conduct of a “rapid midterm review” on the operations of the interim BARMM governance.

But Ebrahim’s announcement had drawn mixed reactions from the public and major stakeholders, Officials from Tawi-Tawi and Maguindanao had conveyed to higher authorities separate manifestations endorsing the extension of the BTA lifespan until 2025. Provincial government officials from Sulu, Basilan and Sulu had likewise sounded off their dissenting stance against the proposal.

Amid the brewing debate, the BTA passed Resolution Nov. 332 on Nov. 17 to elevate the debate to higher quarters, notably Malacañang and Congress.

ICM Ebrahim accompanied by Ministers Macacua and Sinarimbo met President Duterte in Davao City. Presidential Peace Adviser Carlito Galvez Jr. alongside other national cabinet members reportedly helped convince the Chief Executive that the interim autonomous government would not be able to accomplish the two-track mission on time.

In the Nov. 25 virtual committee hearing of Mangudadatu’s special committee, Sec. Galvez echoed Mr. Duterte’s categorical support for an extension in the BTA lifespan.

Rep. Mangudadatu said his committee had also heard views from representatives of officials from BARMM areas as well as leaders of the Inter-Government Relations Body (IGRB), an entity co-chaired by Finance Secretary Sonny Galvez and Education Minister Mohagher Iqbal.

Mangudadatu said he “agreed” with the OPAPP and IGRB officials that “three year is not enough for BTA and the national government to lay (down) strong foundations for stable peace in Mindanao, as well as having a responsive and well-functioning bureaucracy of Bangsamoro Autonomous Regional Government.

He could only wish for smooth sailing in the House plenary of his bill and its counterparts from Reps. Legarda and Romuladez.

Dissenting officials like former ARMM governor Mujiv Hataman is a House deputy speaker, while Sulu Gov. Sakur Tan, who also rejects the extension proposal, has two family members sitting as lawmakers in the lower legislature. AGM

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