BTA term extension approval seen; PRRD’s push vital
By Ali G. Macabalang
Despite slimming number of Congressional session days, key proponents in the term extension move for Bangsamoro Transition Authority (BTA) are still confident that lawmakers will enact the postponement of the 2022 election of 80 regular members of the regional parliament in Muslim Mindanao required in the clamor.
Interviewed separate over the phone on Sunday by the Philippine Muslim Today news, BTA Parliament Members Jose Lorena and Mohagher Iqbal expressed high optimism about the much flaunted call for transition extension, and rated their confidence “7” in a scale of 1 to 10.
Iqbal, sitting also as education minister of the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM), said his rate of confidence will be perfect “10” if President Duterte certifies the poll-postponing bills “urgent” for lawmakers to speed up the legislative mills.
Iqbal, who is also vice chair of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), and Lorena, a lawyer-nominee of the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) in the BTA, have stood firm in the belief that President Duterte will soon push one of six Congress bills as “urgent” to preserve and institutionalize his administration’s “legacy” for installing the BARMM governance in pursuit of ending decades of armed conflicts in Mindanao.
“He will not allow his legacy to just vanish in thin air,” Lorena said, referring to the President and his commitment for the Bangsamoro autonomy to serve as a template to federalism being advocated in field forums and in the House of Representatives.
Inspiring field events
Reasons for optimism given by Lorena and Iqbal were earlier expounded by Lanao del Sur Gov. Mamintal “Bombit” Alonto-Adiong Jr. and Maguindanao Rep. Esmael Toto” Mangudadatu in the face of snowballing field events pushing for BTA term extension that drew manifest supports from leaders of Muslim, Christian and Indigenous people camps within and outside the Bangsamoro region.
The “Insiders Mediators” coalition of non-government groups led by the Mindanao People’s Caucus (MPC) said they have already exceeded the ceiling of one million online signatures campaign to persuade a Presidential push.
On Saturday, over 50,000 people aboard 6,407 vehicles including 2,997 motorbikes paraded along the highway of two Lanao provinces and the cities of Marawi and Iligan del Sur to press for a legislated delay to 2025 of the 2022 regional parliament members elections and extend the BTA three-year term, said Nurhalim Carim, media relations person of the caravan organizers.
The Ranaw Confederation for Peace (RCP), Moro Ako and the Coalition of Moro Youth Movement (CMYM) organized the caravan that spent one stop over in Malabang, Lanao del Sur to sign a letter addressed to President Duterte and Congress, Carim said.
“We met challenges in managing of huge number vehicles in the motorcade that spanned some 5- kilometre long, but were elated by success to show one voice (from) Ranaw region in supporting the BTA (term) extension,” Carim told the Philippine Muslim Today news Saturday night.
Harmonizing conflicting views
While MPs Lorena and Iqbal were foreseeing prospects for extended BTA term, they said the accruing debate over the issue should be handled with utmost sobriety in the spirit of promoting understanding, not confusion; respect, not hatred; and unity for the welfare of majority, not dissension laced with vested interests.
Iqbal reiterated his assertion that the transition extension call is not about proponents’ continued stay in office, but for both the national government and the Bangsamoro bureaucracy to have ample time in fleshing out the mandates of R.A. 11054 for political and normalization tracks.
He said the normalization calls for the decommissioning of MILF’s 40,000 combatants to transform into peaceful and productive civilian life, with some of the qualified among their ranks earmarked to get integrated into the police force and others formed into Joint Peace and Security Teams (JPSTs) comprising MILF cadres, cops and soldiers trained together for months. This process is not even 40 per cent completed, he pointed out.
On the political track, Iqbal said, concerned BARMM and national government authorities are still half-way in building the structures of parliament style bureaucracy in Muslim Mindanao to be fleshed by passage of required codes and the devolution of national powers and resources to the regional entity. AGM