MNLF must be given 15 fixed seats in the BTA for equitable representation

SOUTHERN FRONTIER

By Gerry Salapuddin

After the plenary debates of the Senate Committee on Local Government Reports on the proposed Deferment of the Election of the Bangsamoro Transition Authority (BTA), there seems to be a consensus among the Senators that the election will be deferred and the current members of the BTA be retained on holdover capacity but it must be without prejudice to the appointing power of the President to appoint new deserving and competent members of the BTA. In other words, the non-performer government nominees must be replaced.

If the intention of the law to make the BTA deliver on its mandates, while the 41 MILF slots are solely the prerogative of the MILF, consistent with the spirit of the law that stated that the BTA must be MILF-led.

However, in order to have equitable representation and effective performance, I strongly suggest that the MNLF must be given fixed number of at least 12 to 15 seats. The MILF and MNLF are peace partners. MILF Chairman Hadji Murad Ahod Ebrahim and MNLF Chairman Muslimin Sema signed a peace covenant for convergence, where they agreed to work as peace partners.

Hence, with the 15 seats to be allotted to the MNLF the seats in all for the government side to include the MNLF will be 39 seats. Thus the MILF as I have mentioned earlier has 41 slots making them as still the majority in the BTA.

While we support the holdover of the BTA Members, however it must be qualified, without prejudice for the President to appoint new deserving and competent government nominees to replace the few ‘non-performers.’ The law must not only legislate to extend the term of the Transition Authority, but must also authorizes the President to appoint new members in order to strengthen the performance of the BTA.

The job at the Senate is almost done. They already managed to consolidate the three bills on the BTA into one bill, which the Senate Committee on Local Government had reported in the plenary and was the subject of debate on the floor.

But on the part of the House of Representatives, there are five bills filed by five different authors. The bill that calls for deferment of the election of the BTA was authored by Maguindanao 2nd Dist. Representative Esmael “Toto” Mangudadatu. Another bill, which is in contrast to the spirit of the Mangudadatu bill is the bill filed by House Deputy Speaker Mujiv Hataman that calls for a congressional review of the performance and expenditures of the BARMM. As such, the House Committee on Electoral Reforms cannot wrap up its committee reports until they have calendared for discussion in the Committee level the bill filed by House Deputy Speaker Mujiv Hataman.

For as long as the House cannot consolidate and harmonize all the 5 bills and report to the plenary for debate, the Senate counterpart measure will have to wait. Congress is now on recess and will resume session on July 25, 2021 for the last SONA of the President. By October 1-6, 2021 will be the Filing of Candidacy for the synchronized national and local elections. Congress must be able to pass the deferment of election for the BTA not later than the last week of July to allow the COMELEC to make necessary preparation if assuming the election in the BARMM will be held simultaneously.

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