By Ali G. Macabalang
Interim Chief Minister Ahod “Hadji Murad” Ebrahim has expressed preference for four of five House bills related to calls for extended Bangsamoro transition governance, taking exception to the version of Lanao del Norte Rep. Khalid Dimaporo that proposes the conduct of parliament members’ election as set in 2022.
Ebrahim described as “acceptable” the version of Deputy Speaker Loren Legarda (HB 8116), Maguindanao 2nd Dist. Rep. Esmael Mangudadatu (HB 8117), Majority Floor Leader Martin Romualdez (HB 8161), and Deputy Speaker Isidro Ungab (HB 8277) that seek postpone the regional polls 2025, until which the transition period will end.
“The four bills (are) acceptable to us because they basically have the same contents (about postponing the regional elections),” Ebrahim said in a podcast with a Manila media network on Jan. 22.
He expressed concern over House Bill 8222 authored by Rep. Dimaporo because, he said, it wants the 2022 polls held on time and the normalization track in the government peace deal with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) extended to 2028 if not completed within the three-year transition period.
Ebrahim, who is also MILF chair, stressed that holding the election for regular members of the 80-seat parliament in 2022 will force the interim Bangsamoro governance to divert focus in building robust autonomy and continuing basic services towards rigorous electoral preparations.
Cardinal Orlando Quevedo and Governors Nancy Catamco of North Cotabato and Mamibtal Adiong Jr. of Lanao del Sur have corroborated Ebrahim’s assertion in separate statements endorsing to Congress the immediate passage of law postponing the 2022 election.
Quevedo, the highest Church leader in Muslim Mindanao, said the “election in 2022 would simply erode whatever fragile gains the BTA (Bangsamoro Transition Authority) shall have obtained within the transition period.” The 2019-2022 transition is not enough for BTA to institute reforms and build institutional mechanisms in education, political, socio-economic and infrastructural dimensions, he pointed out.
According to Governors Adiong and Catamco, North Cotabato’s first Lumad chief executive, the MILF-led autonomy should be allowed to bloom from the vestiges of decades of armed conflict that had left some 120,000 people dead, multitude of families displaced, and huge peace and development opportunities lost.
Challenges in election
In his podcast, Ebrahim mentioned some challenges besetting them in regards to achieving focused participation in political exercises, including the taxing efforts on clearing some MILF members from pending legal suits for them to seek election and on the legislation of regional .electoral and local government codes.
Before the MILF and government inked in 2014 the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro (CAB), which led to the passage of R.A. 11054 (BARMM charter) in 2018, state authorities had charged some prominent front leaders with rebellion alongside criminal suits.
“We want the MILF members cleared of legal cases before the election,” Ebrahim said in Pilipino, saying the enabling efforts are still being discussed in the Inter-Governmental Relations Body (IGRB), a body tasked to iron out kinks in the devolution of national powers and assets to the autonomous government.
While optimistic that the BTA will be able to pass the election and local government codes within this year, Ebrahim hinted the deliberations would entail intense debates because the regional parliament wants both edicts to reflect and resolve political realities in the Bangsamoro region.
On Jan. 18, Parliament Speaker Pangalian Balindong and members Omar Yasser Sea and Jose Lorena g said the electoral and local government codes are interrelated on a proposed provision discouraging political dynasty. The speaker, a lawyer, said he had spent 12 years in Congress pushing to no avail the adoption of an anti-political dynasty, while Sema and Lorena, both lawyers also, foresaw a “hard sail” for the adoption of such provision.
No fund issue in extended transition
Ebrahim said the call for an extended BARMM transitional region will not entail “additional funding” because “we have a yearly block grant downloaded every year as guaranteed in the BARMM charter for 10 years.
His contention was contrary to the argument of Rep. Dimaporo that the 2022 polls should be done on time because a new administration may not prioritize providing the substantial subsidies being enjoyed by the interim governance. AGM