By Ali G. Macabalang
Sought to provide an update on the brewing debate over calls for Bangsamoro Transition Authority (BTA) term extension, stakeholder-officials disclosed that two governors in the new autonomous region have pressed for the conduct of a regional parliament election as scheduled in 2022.
In separate interviews, Maguindanao Rep. Esmael Mangudadatu and Lanao del Sur Gov. Mamintal Alonto Adiong Jr. told the Philippine Muslim Today news that Governors Abdusakur Tan of Sulu and Mariam Sangki-Mangudadatu of Maguindanao asserted the conduct of regional polls on time during an executive meeting presided over in Manila by Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana among officials from the Bangsamoro region on Tuesday.
At the meeting, they said, Gov. Tan assured that he and four other governors in the region will support the candidacy of interim Chief Minister Ahod “Al Haj Murad” Ebrahim if he will run for a seat in the 80-parliament members come 2022 synchronized elections.
Gov. Tan’s stance at the meeting was not surprising because he has been consistent with his objection to extended BTA lifespan, according to Rep. Mangudadatu and Gov. Adiong.
But the duo said they were appalled by the pronouncement at the meeting of Gov. Sangki-Mangudadatu because her Sangguniang Panlalawigan was the first provincial political body to have passed a resolution endorsing the call for an extended BTA term for the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM) governance to carry out fully its mandates under R.A. 11054 and state’s peace accord with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) in 2014.
Except for Tawi-Tawi Gov. Yshmael Sali, who reportedly rallies the term extension move, all governors in BARMM attended the Tuesday meeting alongside regional top officials led by Chief Minister Ebrahim as well as lawmakers from the area of autonomy, Mangudadatu said.
The Philippine Muslim Today news tried but failed to get words from Maguindanao Gov. Sangki-Mangudadatu as of press time, even as readers had earlier reported about BARMM officials led by ICM Ebrahim holding two meetings with the lady governor twice before Tuesday’s executive conference.
Rep. Mangudadatu said Sec. Lorenzana announced among meeting attendees about the need for them to come up with final positions by Friday, March 12 to be submitted for “review” by legal authorities from the Justice Department and the Palace before submission to President Duterte for decision.
President Duterte is under persuasion to certify as urgent the election-postponing bills for an extended BTA lifespan through a snowballing campaign for one million signatures by combined forces of supportive sectors and quarters. The nation-wide drive has reportedly mustered over 700,000 signatures as of press time.
Gov. Adiong said the so-called “legal review” was prompted by assertions from some quarters that even if Congress shall have passed a bill postponing the 2022 regional polls and extending BTA term, there would still be need for a plebiscite because R.A. 11054 (Bangsamoro Organic Law) was subjected to ratified through referendum in 2019.
He said Palace officials, possibly Sec. Lorenzana, would meet again with lawmakers, governors and BARMM leaders next week to inform them of the result of the “review” by the executive department’s legal bodies.
Adiong said that as far as the BTA term “extension issue” is concerned, the majority of constituent lawmakers and three of five provincial governors are supportive. He was referring to himself, Gov. Sali and Gov. Salliman, whose provincial board adopted about two weeks ago a resolution endorsing poll postponement and BTA term extension.
Rep. Mangudadatu said he pleaded to fellow attendees in Tuesday’s meeting to fully agree with the poll postponement because the absence of a BARMM electoral code defining the processes and mechanics of regional polls is posing a legal challenge to the Commission on Elections (Comelec) come 2022 elections.
Echoing an earlier view by BTA Parliament Member-lawyer Jose Lorena, Mangudadatu said the electoral code under deliberation by the BARMM cabinet for submission to parliament consideration will define specific traits of district and party accreditations different from existing Comelec standards.
“I explained (at Tuesday’s meeting) that in the absence of a regional code, Congress will be compelled to define the election procedures (in a process) that will further prolong and complicate the debate,” Mangudadatu said.
Mangudadatu said he has prodded “everybody at the meeting” that things will be simplified if they all agree for one direction – parliament poll postponement and BTA term extension.
“The three-year BTA term (ending in 2022) is too short for the BARMM governance to fully accomplish its missions under the law,” the Muslim lawmaker said, pointing out that congress had tinkered with the election periods in the area of autonomy at least three times.
Granting the BARMM interim governance three more years “is nothing compared to the great impact of more stable peace with minimum armed atrocities nowadays in the Bangsamoro region,” Rep. Mangudadatu said, attributing the feat to the MILF’s resort to forging cordiality with the government.
Mangudadatu is author of one of four bills in the House of Representatives and two bills in the Senate that all seek to amend the BOL to postpone the 2022 parliament election and extend the BTA transitional operations.
Asked anew for his categorical assessment of the debate proceedings, Mangudadatu said he remained confident of the passage of a poll-postponing bill for Congress adjourns sine die on June 4 this year.
He said the process will be swifter if the President certifies the measure “urgent.” AGM