By JULMUNIR I. JANNARAL
WELCOME, Tuburan, Basilan: A group of Basilan-based Senior Leaders of the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) held an indignation rally where they were protesting the substitute Senate Bill No. 2214 that deleted the participation of the MNLF in the Bangsamoro governance.
The MNLF leaders during the indignation rally were supported by representatives of various sectors coming from the different municipalities.
The participants of the rally had carefully observed minimum health standards or protocols mandated by the local government units (LGUs) and the Inter Agency Task Force (IATF) on COVID-19.
Accordingly, in the deliberation of Senate Bill No. 2214 last May 24, the vital participation of the MNLF and other sectors as provided for under Republic Act No. 11054, otherwise known as the Bangsamoro Organic Law (BOL) has been obliterated by the new proposed Senate bill.
Basilan MNLF Revolutionary State Chairman Jann Jakilan, who is also an incumbent member of the Bangsamoro Transition Authority (BTA) Parliament described the said Senate substitute bill during the rally not only in violation of the signed peace agreement between Government of the Republic of the Philippines (GRP) and the MNLF but also a blatant violation of the BOL in general and the rights of other sectors were also being sidelined.
Another Member of Parliament (MP), Ustadz Abdulmuhmin A. Mujahid, who is currently the Chairman of the Bangsamoro Party (BaPa) in the Province of Basilan lamented that the said Senate Bill No. 2214 scrapping the vital participation of the MNLF during the BTA extension to year 2025 clearly violates Article XVI of Republic Act No. 11054, which states that the BTA shall be lead by the MILF but without prejudice to vital participation of the MNLF.
Mujahid further pointed out that under the new Senate measure, the participation of other sectors such as the Ulama, the Youth and the Women as well as traditional leaders were already ambiguous and or unspoken.
He opined that the Senate could only amend the BOL provisions concerning the schedule in the conduct of the first parliamentary sessional election of the set of officials of the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM) and the allocations during the extension for member of the BTA parliament of the Cities of Marawi, Cotabato and Lamitan in Basilan as well as the 63 barangays of North Cotabato who voted in favor of joining the BARMM.
For his part, former House of Representatives Deputy Speaker Abdulghani “Gerry” Salapuddin, who is also the Administrator and CEO of the Southern Philippines Development Authority (SPDA), said during the rally that to make it safer and just for the MNLF, the new law must provide specific number of allocations for them in the BTA-BARMM, considering that the MNLF is the founding revolutionary organization in defending the rights of the Bangsamoro People in Mindanao and the whole country as well.
Meanwhile, a Press Release forwarded by the BTA Publications and Media Relations to the Philippine Muslim Today, it says that if the proposed Senate Bill 2214 is passed into law, “there will be equitable distribution of positions in the Bangsamoro Transition Authority (BTA).”
Senate Majority Leader Miguel Zubiri and Senator Francis Tolentino, sponsor of the bill, made this clarification after receiving concerns from some individuals that the representation of settler communities and other sectors will be removed from the BTA.
Before the plenary debates on Thursday, Senator Zubiri read a text message from some groups telling that Senator Tolentino “removed the representation of settler communities to the transitory government, paving the way for absolute Muslim authority in the region and leaving the Christians without a voice.”
“Mr. President, this is fake news,” Senator Zubiri said after reading the message to his colleagues in the chamber.
“I know the good sponsor (Senator Tolentino) will never do that. I just want to put that on record because I feel bad for him. He is now subject of viral messages and attacks and it is not fair to the gentleman because as a matter of fact it is in his eagerness to show equitable distribution of positions in the interim BTA if we do extend the measure,” he said.
He said that Senator Tolentino included settler communities, Christians, Lumads, women’s organizations, non-government organizations, Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF), Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), youth, and Ulama.
“The good gentlemen wanted to make sure that it was equitable na hindi lamang po isang province lang ang mauupo dyan sa BTA and sustainable. He wanted to make sure that every district of every province, whether small or large will be represented, including the Christian settlers,” he said.
Senator Tolentino emphasized that the reserved seats include settler communities.
“Definitely fake news, Mr. President, because if you will scrutinize the transcript of yesterday’s interpellation, I mentioned settler communities more than five times and the bill, as cleaned and amended, will definitely include settler communities,” he reiterated.
Senate Bill 2214 is a substitute bill to SBs 2019 and 2025 introduced by Senator Aquilino Pimentel and Senator Richard Gordon. The measure seeks to postpone the region’s first regular election from 2022. JIJ