UPDATE: Sen. Gordon files BARMM election-delaying bill, too

By Ali G. Macabalang

Senator Richard Gordon. (File)

COTABATO CITY

Senator Richard “Dick” Gordon has filed a bill postponing the 2022 election for regular members of the Bangsamoro parliament and giving the interim autonomous governance three additional years in its transitional strides in building a bureaucracy responsive to stable peace and equitable growth in Muslim Mindanao.

Maguindanao 2nd District Rep. Esmael “Toto” Mangudadatu, one of proponents of House counterpart bills, revealed the “good news” shortly after Sen. Gordon filed Wednesday, Jan. 27 Senate Bill No. 2025, which seeks to amend also R.A. 11054 to effect the postponement of the first election of parliament members mandated in 2022.

The filing of Gordon’s measure brought to two the number of Senate bills introduced so far in the Senate in support of moves to extend the transitional Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM) governance.

The first was Senate Bill No. 2019 filed on Monday, Jan. 25 by Mindanao’s Senator Aquilino “Koko” Pimentel Jr. that was equally heralded and extolled by BARMM officials alongside Mangudadatu, chair of the House Special Committee on Unity, Peace and Reconciliation (SCUPR). The SCUPR is one of House committees initially handling five corresponding bills in the Lower Chamber.

Senator Aquilino “Kokko” Pimentel Jr. (File)

Both Senate bills proposed amendment in Section 13, Article XVI of R.A. 11054, known as Bangsamoro organic Law or BARMM Charter, which set the first regular election for the 80 regular members of the regional parliament. They also seek the repeal of R.A. 6734, which created the defunct Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) as amended by R.A. 9054 that expanded the region’s territory and strengthened its governance.

Senators Gordon and Pimentel’s separate filing of bills of similar intents was heralded by Mangudadatu in separate media advisories describing it as “big push” to the BARMM transition extension drive that began from a parliament resolution up to the filing of five bills in the lower chamber of Congress.

Mangudadatu filed House Bill No. 8117 on Dec. 1, 2020 almost simultaneously with House Bill 8116 introduced by Deputy Speaker Loren Legarda. Majority Floor Leader Martin Romualdez, Lanao Norte Rep. Khalid Dimaporo and Deputy Speaker Isidro Ungab followed suit with their House Bills numbered 8161, 8222 and 8277, respectively.

In a podcast on Jan. 22, Regional Chief Minister Ahod Hadji Murad” Ebrahim described the bills of Mangudadatu, Legarda, Romualdez and Ungab as “acceptable to us because they basically have the same (intents in postponing the regional elections from 2022 to 2025).”

Dimaporo’s version proposes the conduct of the 2022 polls as scheduled and seeks to extend the ARMM transition period up to 2028 if the normalization and political tracks stipulated in the BOL and the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro signed by the MILF and the government in 2014 would not be completed, according to reports.

Buoyed by the similarity of the two Senate bills to his version and the three other House bills, Rep. Mangudadatu lauded Senators Pimentel and Gordon for rallying the bandwagon of support for the electoral postponement. 

“Isa na naman pong senador ang nakinig sa lumalakas na panawagan nating mga Moro na ipagpaliban muna ang eleksyon para sa Bangsamoro Parliament at nang mapalawig pa ang transition period para sa minamahal nating rehiyon,” he said in a statement, referring to Gordon’s bill.

The Maguindanao lawmaker, a former three-term governor, had issued a similar statement of appreciation for Sen. Pimentel on the day of the latter’s bill filing. 

“Sa ating lahat, lalo na sa aking mga kababayan na patuloy na nananalangin para sa katuparan ng matagal na nating minimithing kasarinlan, identidad, respeto at makabuluhang pamumuhay bilang isang komunidad: Huwag po tayo mawalan ng pag-asa. Patuloy lang tayong manalig kay Allah at sa sinseridad ng Administrasyong Duterte at ng BARMM-BTA na mawakasan ang kaguluhan at mapaganda rin ang kalidad ng buhay, hindi lang ng mga Moro kundi pati na ang lahat sa Mindanao,” Mangudadatu said.

Since last week, statements of support for BARMM transition extension having been pouring in one after another from different groups and personalities, including Cardinal Orlando Quevedo, Governors Bombit Adiong of Lanao del Sur and Nancy Catamco of North Cotabato, Sulu Rep. Munir Arbison, the Save Sulu Movement, mayors in Basilan, Lanao del Sur and Maguindanao.

A group calling itself “Firm Bangsamoro International” issued a statement Wednesday, copy furnished the Philippine Muslim Today, casting “full support” to the calls for BARMM interim governance extension.

Southern Philippine Development Authority (SPDA) Administrator/CEO Abdulghani “Gerry “Salapuddin has joined the bandwagon, underscoring the need to sustain the gains in peace building achieved through the BARMM even at its stage of infancy as a legacy of the Duterte administration.

Salapuddin, a former pioneer Basilan governor and congressman belonging to the Moro National Liberation Front’s founding “Top 90” band, said that since the BARMM entity is transforming to parliamentary system from the current presidential form of government, it should be given sufficient time to complete its initial successes in installing needed political structure. AGM

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