BARMM chief upbeat about BTA term extension approval

By Ali G. Macabalang

BANGSAMORO CHIEF CONFIDENT ON BTA EXTENSION: BARMM Interim Chief Minister Ahod B. Ebrahim tells Philippine Muslim Today news editor Ali G. Macabalang he is confident BTA will be extended in an interview in Cagayan de Oro City on March 21. (PMT Photo)

CAGAYAN DE ORO CITY

Interim Bangsamoro Chief Minister Ahod “Hadji Murad” Ebrahim is confident about passage by congress of pending bills seeking to extend the lifespan of the Bangsamoro Transition Authority (BTA) by postponing the election for regular parliament members set to be synchronized with local and national polls in 2022.

Ebrahim expressed the optimism in an exclusive interview by the Philippine Muslim Today (PMT) news on Sunday at the sidelight here of the ceremonial signing of contracts for P3.7-billion infra projects with all local government units (LGUs) in Lanao del Sur, particularly Governor Mamintal “Bombit” A. Adiong and his 39 town mayors and one city mayor.

He also aired a positive view for possible “urgent” certification by President Rodrigo Duterte of one of six bills (two in the Senate and four in the House) that all propose the regional poll’s postponement to 2025 in order to extend the three-year term of the BTA, the interim ruling body of the two-year old Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM).

Ebrahim, chair of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) now momentarily steering the BARMM governance, cited the latest of meetings by BARMM officials he led with the President, whom he described as “100 percent supportive” of the call for BTA term extension.

“Actually, the president is very supportive naman starting from the day na kinausap namin siya… hindi na kami nakapag paliwanag nang mahaba, sabi niya: I really understand na kailangan ninyo (kasi) very short ang three years na transisyon. So kausapin niya (ang kongreso na) 100% na supportado (siya),” Ebrahim said.

He said the President advised the BARMM entourage to “reach out” to the legislature and help persuade lawmakers into committing the passage of a synchronized version of the six bills.

For lobby efforts before Congress, Ebrahim quoted the President as saying:  “Kung ano ang kailangan na supporta ready ako, nasa likod (ako) para sa inyo.”

Majority of five governors and 118 mayors as well as Congress members from BARMM have officially manifested full support for the term extension call, with Christian leaders led by Cardinal Orlando Quevedo and North Cotabato Gov. issuing statements endorsing Congressional approval.

Two separate peace caravans in the Lanao region and in Central Mindanao involving some 75,000 four-wheel cars and motorbikes carrying close to 200,000 people have been staged this month to help dramatize the mustering via online drive by non-government organizations of over one million signatures urging the President to certify one of the six enabling bills as “urgent.”

While keeping track of the slimming number of session days left in Congress before adjourning sine die on June 4, BTA term extension proponents have floated a possibility for the Presidential certification on March 27 or 29.

March 27 is the date when the government signed with the MILF the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro (CAB) in 2014, while March 29 marks the second year anniversary of President Duterte’s inauguration of the BARMM governance in 2019.

Ebrahim hinted that their optimism for Presidential certification has been bolstered by an online notice by the Justice Department and Palace’s legal luminaries that an amendatory law of R.A. 11054 (BARMM charter) to postpone the 2022 regional parliament election would no longer require a referendum, contrary to an earlier contention by Sulu Governor Sakur Tan in opposing the term extension call. AGM

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