BTA lifespan extension at a glance 

PUNCHLINE

by Ali G. Macabalang

I am not fond of listening to government commitments and assurances, especially those involving the snail-paced rehabilitation works on war-torn Marawi City and its numerous displaced residents still unaccounted for in different parts of the country where they sought refuge.

But in the case of projections by regional and national officials on the possible outcome of the calls for postponement in the 2022 election of Bangsamoro Parliament members, I entertain positive notes. This is because, to me, delaying the regional polls to 2025 and extending the interim Bangsamoro Transition Authority (BTA) lifespan is more rational and less burdensome to both the stakeholders and proponents.

There are six pending bills in Congress – two in the Senate and four in the House of Representatives – moving for regional poll postponement and extending the BTA three-year term to 2025.

Leaders and members of the two Congressional chambers have reportedly assured to pass a harmonized version of the bills once President Duterte certified it urgently. Supporting quarters including civil society groups have combined forces to solicit one million signatures online to persuade a Presidential certification, and the drive even exceeded the one million-target by more than 200 more signatures.

Lawmakers and regional officials interviewed by this writer have expressed confidence that the poll postponement drive is almost a “done deal” in the 18th Congress. Congress adjourned sessions sine die on June 4. But they said the Senate and the House have assured to pass the enabling bill even on special sessions upon receipt of a Presidential certification, which was reportedly endorsed by Finance Secretary Sonny Domínguez. 

Reason: Records showed that Congress had passed laws resetting elections in Muslim Mindanao and on barangay polls on the last hours, many times – not just once.

I believe that holding the regional Parliament polls in time with the 2022 local and national elections will shape more odds and benefits for the following factors:

The BTA Parliament has not passed an electoral code, which will serve as a basis for the accreditation of local parties to participate in the regional polls. The code will specify guidelines on the process of political party accreditation. Minus it, who will accredit candidates and their parties for Parliament seats? Lawyer-members of BTA said the Commission on Elections is not empowered to accredit as far as the BARMM poll is concerned.

Granting that “scheming minds” can circumvent the absence of a a regional electoral code (as has been the case in past political exercises), leaders and allies of the Moro of Islamic Liberation Front and Moro National Liberation Front now running the BARMM government will be forced to seek elective seats in the 80-member parliament.

The question is, will these reigning MILF and MNLF be ready to accept defeat in an election where traditional politics is expected to prevail as usual due to their long-existing networks and assets? Of course, the answer is no.

It is very likely that these ruling MILF and MNLF leaders would do everything within their reach to win, including the use of huge funds under their disposal to fuel their campaign and ensure victory.

And such a tendency will be a plain mirror of the usual corrupt practice of diverting programmed funds to political maneuvers. And the end losers will be the majority constituents of the Bangsamoro who are expecting much from the new powerful autonomous entity.

If the ruling MILF and MNLF leaders failed in getting a decisive number of seats in the regional parliament, chances are that their mandates to pursue the Normalization and Political Tracks under the Bangsamoro Organic Law or R.S. 11054 would be relegated to somebody else.

What will happen if such mandates are not fulfilled? It is very likely that the rest of 40,000 MILF combatant-members who have not been decommissioned will not only feel disgruntled but may even join other rebellious groups. This will give more reasons for the Abu Sayyaf and BIFF rebelling forces to continue sowing atrocities.

Only about 12,000 of the MILF combat forces have been decommissioned, but the government has paid out only P100,000 of the one million-peso rehabilitation package committed to each of them.

In a nutshell, there are more odds to expect in case of a failure in the call for three-year extension in the BTA term. AGM

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