By Gerry Salapuddin
They say once a revolutionary is always a revolutionary
although there is no more revolution to wage on.
Yesterday that was Thursday May 27, my being with the revolution for several decades as one of the top commanders of the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) in my home province here in Basilan, once again I have responded to the call of duty not as a member of the revolution with my old self as used to be known as “MNLF Commander Gerry,” but rather as a peacemaker in the present time.
That is when I attended the peace rally of the MNLF Basilan Chapter at the Municipal Sports Center of Tuburan Municipality last Thursday.
The MNLF is trying to get the ears of the lawmakers to allocate at least 15 seats for the MNLF and one seat for the City of Lamitan.
However, the sad thing is that the Reports of the Senate Committee on Local Government chaired by the Honorable Senator Francis Tolentino, the participation of the MNLF supposedly to be allocated with 15 seats for
MNLF was deleted, including the one seat for the City of Lamitan.
If you may recall, in the R.A. 11054: The Bangsamoro Organic Law (BOL), it states: “The Bangsamoro Transition Authority (BTA) shall be MILF-led, without prejudice to the participation of the MNLF.”
Before the approval into law of the BOL, the two Moro Fronts, MILF and MNLF signed a Covenant for Convergence at Camp Darapanan, Sultan Kudarat Municipality represented by Chairman Hadji Murad Ebrahim for the MILF and Muslimin Sema for the MNLF.
They both agreed to work as partners for peace. The MNLF campaigned for the ratification of the BOL during the campaign period. And I was one of the MNLF leaders that strongly campaigned for it too in Basilan. The MNLF is also lobbying for the deferment of the election of the Bangsamoro Transition Authority (BTA) until 2025.
However, as cited earlier in the Senate Committee on Local Government chaired by Sen. Francis Tolentino, the participation of the MNLF was deleted and no fixed number of seats were allocated for them.
It can be recalled, the MNLF is the mother revolutionary movement, hence, deserving seats in the BTA.
In the Senate Committee Reports, from its present simple majority of 41 seats for the MILF, an additional 6 seats was given to the MILF, making it 47.
The 68 barangays of North Cotabato that joined the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM) will be alloted 3 seats and 2 seats for Indigenous People (IP)
also allied with the MILF, giving the MILF a super majority bloc in the new BTA.
That is why we in the MNLF is protesting about the allocation of seats in the BTA.
Through MNLF Vice Chairman and BTA Deputy Speaker Hatimil E. Hassan, they are formally requesting at least 15 seats for the MNLF and 1 seat for the City of Lamitan, Basilan, like Marawi and Cotabato Cities.
However, as I have said in the Senate Committee Reports the City of Lamitan was deleted. The MNLF is also asking for 1 seat for the Sama Dilaut of Tawi-Tawi.
The MNLF is threatening to withdraw from the peace agreement if they are not given fixed number of seats in the BTA. They consider the deletion of the MNLF participation in the Committee Reports of the Senate as abrogation of the peace covenant.
Today, in different provinces and cities, the MNLF leaders and their supporters conducted an indignation rally to amplify their objection to Senate Committee Reports.
The 5 Provinces of Maguindanao, Lanao del Sur, Basilan, Sulu and Tawi-Tawi are entitled 4 seats to be nominated by the Sangguniang Panlalawigan of each province to the Office of the President.
Congress will only have 4 more session days next week then they will go on a two month long recess and will resume session in second week of August for the last or Farewell SONA of President Rodrigo Duterte. Since the House Committee on Electoral Reforms hadn’t wrap up yet its Committee Reports, the chance of the bill to defer the election of the BTA is impossible to pass next week.
Congress has less than two months to act on it because the scheduled filing of candidacy set by the COMELEC for the synchronized national and local elections of 2022 are on October 1-6, 2021.