Iqbal clarifies Maguindanao guv’s stance on BTA term debate

By Ali G. Macabalang

COTABATO CITY

Maguindanao Governor Mariam Sangki-Mangudadatu has not spoken about moving against or for the snowballing campaign for a postponement in the 2022 election of regional parliament members to extend the three-year term of the Bangsamoro Transition Authority (BTA), according to Mohagher Iqbal.

“In fairness to Governor Mariam, she did not talk about favoring the conduct of election (as set by law) in 2022. It was her husband who talked,” Iqbal, a BTA parliament member, told the Philippine Muslim Today news on Sunday.

Iqbal, who is also education minister of the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao, said Gov. Mariam was met in Maguindanao, Davao City and Manila by BARMM top officials led by interim Chief Minister Ahod “Hadji Murad” Ebrahim, and kept “silent” about the brewing issue over the BTA term extension.

At the meeting in Manila called on March 9 by Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana for top regional executives led by Ebrahim, the governors and lawmakers in BARMM, it was Governors Sakur Tan of Sulu and Suharto Mangudadatu of Sultan Kudarat who spoke against BTA term extension and for the conduct of the 2022 election on schedule, Iqbal recalled.

Iqbal said he was present in the March 9 meeting and observed Gov. Mariam keeping “silent” while her husband was talking in support of Gov. Tan’s renewed opposition to the BTA term extension.

Due to the lady governor’s silence and the belief that a couple stands for common decision, the “husband’s opinion is deemed as that of his wife, too,” Iqbal explained, pointing out that the husband’s turf – Sultan Kudarat – is “not part of the autonomous region.”

Minister Iqbal’s view came as a clarification also for an earlier revelation by Maguindanao 2nd District Rep. Esmael “Toto” Mangudadatu and Lanao del Sur Gov. Mamintal “Bombit” Alonto-Adiong Jr., who attended the Manila meeting, that Gov. Mariam Sangki-Mangudadatu rallied Gov. Tan’s consistent objection to BTA term extension.

Rep. Mangudadatu and Gov. Adiong, both interviewed by the Philippine Muslim Today news over the phone, aired surprise about the lady governor’s option. They cited the fact that the provincial board of Maguindanao was reported to be the first ever sangguniang panlalawigan in BARMM to have passed a resolution supporting the extension drive.

Executive legal review  

Iqbal corroborated the revelation of Rep. Mangudadatu and Gov. Adiong that the argument by Gov. Tan about the need for a referendum in case of a new law amending R.A. 11054 would be passed by Congress.

Rep. Mangudadatu, an author of one of four poll-postponing bills in the lower legislature, said Sec. Lorenzana would elevate Tan’s arguments to a “review” by legal luminaries of the Justice Department and the Palace, and that the same audience would be called soon for another meeting by the defense secretary to announce the review result.

Legal luminaries, reacting to an initial Facebook report about Gov. Tan’s contention, said there is no need for a plebiscite for a law that may be passed by Congress to amend R.A. 11054 to postpone the 3033 polls and extend the BTA term of operation,

BTA Parliament follow-up legal position

In another phone interview by the Philippines Muslim Today news on Sunday, Parliament Member-lawyer Jose Lorena said the BTA legislature would come up with a follow-up legal view contrary to Gov. Tan’s assertion.

“We will draft and submit a legal position to Congress,” Lorena said, citing an amendment clause in R.A. 10054, the 2018 law that established the BARMM government with the BTA as interim ruling body until 2022.      

Lorena, Rep. Mangudadatu and Iqbal had taken turns in explaining that R.A. 6734 governing the creation of the now defunct Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) had been amended several times but the amending laws did not undergo any referendum.

There are eight legislations passed concerning the autonomy in Muslim Mindanao, Rep. Mangudadatu pointed out to mean that Congress and Malacañang had resorted to such legislative adjustments in pursuit of preserving peace as prescribed by the state’s peace processes with the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF). AGM

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