By Ali G. Macabalang
Congress will favorably act on bills seeking to extend the Bangsamoro government’s transition period in due time, and the process will be hastened with a strong Presidential push amid surfacing resentments from some quarters within the autonomous region.
Maguindanao 2nd District Rep. Esmael “Toto” Mangudadatu disclosed such optimism on Wednesday as he urged the President to certify the legislative measures as “urgent” as a testament to his administration’s commitment to make the infant autonomous government as another avenue to correct “historical injustices” in the Bangsamoro community.
“Matingkad ang aking paniwala na ipapasa ng Kongreso ang panukalang ipagpaliban ang halalan sa 2020 para sa mga myembro ng regional parliament upang matupad ng BTA (Bangsaoro Transition Authority) ang mga mandato nito,” Rep. Mangudadatu told the Philippine Muslim Today over the phone.
The BTA is the governing body of the interim bureaucracy and parliament of the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM), comprising members appointed by President Duterte for a transitional term ending upon the election in 2022 of 80 regular parliament members.
Rep. Mangudadatu is the principal author of one of three enabling bills filed in the House of Representatives. Deputy Speaker Loren Legarda and Majority Floor Leader Martin Romualdez filed the two other corresponding bills.
The House Special Committee on Peace, Unity and Reconciliation chaired by Mangudadatu has already conducted initial hearings among officials of the BARMM governance and concerned national personalities like Presidential Peace Adviser Carlito Galvez Jr.
Mangudadatu said concerned BARMM officials have asserted that because of the advent of the COVID-19 pandemic and other challenges, the BTA will not be able to enact on time the codes needed to build the BARMM government structure stipulated as Political Track under R.A. 11054 and the Comprehensive Agreement on Bangsamoro (CAB) forged by the government with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) in 2014.
The same law and peace accord also prescribe for Normalization Track, which the government will carry out by way of decommissioning the MILF’s 40,000 combatants with their firearms and transforming them to peaceful and productive civilian life. The government committed P1-million for each of decommissioned MILF combatant, P100,000 of which is payable during decommissioning ceremony and the remaining the remaining amount in subsequent releases.
Citing government sources including Sec. Gallvez, Rep. Mangudadatu said only 12,000 MILF combatants have been decommissioned and given P100,000 cash each for the immediate needs of the recipient’s family members.
The payment of remaining P900,000 commitment to subsidize the education and health needs of decommissioned MILF member’s dependents and build decent houses has been delayed reportedly due to the realignment of funds prompted by the government’s shift of focal attention to preventing the spread of COVID-19 disease, he said.
The remaining 28,000 MILF members appeared reluctant to undergo decommissioning as a result of the delayed release of the remaining P900,000 package for each of those already decommissioned, said BARMM Executive Secretary Abdulraof “Sammy Gambar” Macacua, who is concurrent chief of staff of the MILF’s armed wing.
The BTA parliament adopted last Nov. 17 Resolution 332 urging Congress to extend the transition period to give them more time to put in place the normalization and peace-keeping process.
Last Nov. 23, President Duterte and six of his Cabinet members met with the BARMM Chief Minister Ahod “Hadji Murad” Ebrahim and his delegation in Davao City to discuss the call for transition extension.
Mr. Duterte agreed with the plea of the BARMM officials and assured to talk to lawmakers, according to a published report attributed to Sec. Galvez, who was among the cabinet officials present at the Nov. 23 meeting.
“The President believes that three years is too short and he agrees for the possible extension of the BTA up to five to six years,” Galvez later told the committee of Mangudadatu.
told the House Committee on Peace, Reconciliation, and Unity during his briefing on the status of the implementation of the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro (CAB), the peace agreement signed by the Philippine government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) in March 2014.
Extending the BTA lifespan requires postponing the first election of regional parliament members and an amendment in R.A. 11054, which set such political exercise on May 9, 2022 in conjunction with local and national elections.
With only 11 months left for the filing of certificates of candidacy in the May 2022 polls, Sec. Galvez proposed that a bill postponing the election and amending in effect the legal provision be attended to promptly.
Mangudadatu said the House of Representatives will start deliberating on the enabling bills upon the resumption of its regular sessions next month.
He shared the sentiments of BARMM and national cabinet officials led by no less than the President, and pointed out the need for persuasive cohesion required in the deliberation of the enabling bills.
He said the Congressional deliberation on the proposal could be hastened if the President will certify it as urgent.
Reports about pronounced opposition to transition extension by prominent local officials in BARMM would require a strong Malacañang push by way of President Duterte’s certifying the legislative measures as urgent, he hinted.
In a recent podcast, Sulu Governor Sakur Tan revealed that he allied forces with Governor Jim Saliman and Rep. Mujiv Hataman of Basilan, and Lanao del Sur Gov. Mamintal Adiong Jr. in opposing the proposal due to varied reasons ranging from alleged incompetence of incumbent BTA members to perceived circumvention of electoral laws.
Gov. Tan said he and Governors Adiong and Saliman had met the President lately and confided to him the details of their rejection of the proposed BARMM transition extension. The President advised the three governors to leave the issue to Congress, the Sulu chief executive said.
While underscoring the need for strong Presidential intercession at Wednesday’s interview by phone, Mangudadatu appealed to the public, notably the dissenting quarters to take cognizance of severe adversities brought about by armed conflicts in the south, especially during the adversarial activities of MILF forces.
“My family has felt the pangs of armed conflicts, so with all constituents of communities comprising BARMM now,” said Mangudadatu, a former three-term governor, mayor, vice mayor and board member in Maguindanao.
He prodded fellow lawmakers from outside the regional autonomy that allowing the MILF to enjoy ample time in proving their worth in public service is part of the government compromise towards achieving peace in Mindanao, in particular, and the country in general.
“The achievement of the aspirations of peace, unity, genuine autonomy and development in the BARMM region is also the achievement of the whole nation,” he said. (AGM)