Right of suffrage exercise in BARMM is imperative

PUNCHLINE

by Ali G. Macabalang

Cotabato City Mayor Cynthia Guiani-Sayadi and Sulu Governor Sakur Tan alongside other unnamed Moro politicos have invoked the need for their respective constituencies to exercise their right of suffrage in selecting their leaders in the upcoming 2022 synchronized local, regional and national elections, in various forums including a meeting with the President on June 16, according to Senator Migz Zubiri.

At the same meeting, Bangsamoro government officials led by Chief Minister Ahod “Hadji Murad” Ebrahim reiterated having not delivered yet their mandates due to the late appointment of the Bangsamoro Transitional Authority (BTA) and other circumstances aggravated by the advent of the COVID-19 pandemic, Zubiri said.

He said the local governments of Lanao del Sur, Basilan and Tawi-Tawi backed the passage of the bill postponing the 2022 parliament election and extending the Bangsamoro Transition Authority (BTA) lifespan to 2025. The latest stance of the Maguindanao LGU was not mentioned by Zubiri, despite publicized reports that the lady governor and her league of mayors had earlier signed manifestos endorsing the bill passage.

He said the June 16 meeting did not reach a “consensus” among the stakeholder-leaders. The President appeared “largely neutral” after listening to the arguments of the supportive and dissenting camps, and asked officials present including Senate President Tito Sotto and House Speaker Lord Allan Velasco (and their key members) to return to the Palace on June 24 for another brainstorming.  

Zubiri was hopeful that the June 24 meeting will be able to reach a compromise, even as he echoed the assurances of the Senate and House leaderships to hold special sessions (amid their current adjournment sine die ending July 24) pass a bill harmonizing the substitute version of Senator Francis Tolentino and the four similar bills in the House.

The Senate bill was due for approval on second reading before the Congressional recess, but the senators opted to do so after learning the House version was “stunted” at the committee level.

There are four poll-postponing bills in the House, authored by Maguindanao Rep. Esmael Mangudadatu, Deputy Speakers Loren Legarda and isidro Ungab and Majority Floor Leader Martin Romualdez.

Another bill authored by Lanao Norte Rep. Khalid Dimaporo calls for the conduct of the 2022 polls as scheduled but offering a longer BARMM transition period. Deputy Speaker Mujiv Hataman of Basilan has a pending resolution for a review of the BARMM’s two year operations before consideration of poll postponement and transitional lifespan.    

On one hand, I agree with the contention that exercising the Constitution-mandated right of suffrage should not be subordinate to any other events, especially undue. Such right is the only power the citizens have to decide on who should be their elected leaders.

On the other hand, I also believe arguments that most if not all elections held in the autonomous region including its component provinces and cities had never been reflective of the “true sentiments” of the electorates because money influenced the results, not to mention the usual grips of political dynasties.

Legal minds, with the corroboration of Senator Tolentino, have contended about the impossibility of holding the 2022 regional parliament polls without the passage of an electoral code in the Bangsamoro region.

The Omnibus Election Code of the country does not define parliament districts that candidates for parliament seats can represent in the 2022 polls. Congressional districts averaging at two per province in the region are different from parliament districts mulled to be four in each province.

The proposed regional electoral code has already been crafted at the BTA parliament, a draft of which was reportedly submitted earlier to the Commission on Elections for comment. The Comelec has not acted on the draft yet.

The drafted code reportedly seeks the grant of government funds to accredited regional political parties so that such parties will be the ones to field perceived brilliant, honest and deserving candidates, and mend the flimsy preference for moneyed politicians.

The quest to transform the personality and money-based right of suffrage in the Bangsamoro to a state-sanctioned party system should take its due course.

If such reform happens, we can expect an end in rampant corruption among the ranks of elected leaders and see an opportunity for the emergence of good governance. (AGM)

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