BIAF-MILF assembly echoes call for BTA lifespan extension

MORO ARMED FORCES REVERBERATE CALLS FOR BTA EXTENSION: Hundreds of BIAF-MILF members lined up before the start of the July 17 assembly in Parang, Maguindanao. (Photo Supplied)

COTABATO CITY – Field members of the Bangsamoro Islamic Armed Forces (BIAF) of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) have taken turn in echoing multi-sector calls for the Duterte administration to defer the 2022 first polls for regional parliament members and extend the lifespan of the Bangsamoro Transtition Authority (BTA) to 2025 in pursuit of bilateral vision for more meaningful autonomy and stable peace in Muslim Mindanao.

MILF’s CCCH Chair Butch Malang addressing the gathering. (Online photo)

Hundreds of members of the BIAF-MILF’s 9th Brigade Expeditionary Mission staged their peaceful assembly at their base in Parang, Maguindanao on July 17, and conveyed the sentiments in relations to a popular clamor for President Rodrigo Duterte to certify urgent a bill postponing the regional polls and extending the BTA operations period.

Leaders of the BIAF field base and the MILF’s Information Committee and Committee on Ceasefire and Cessation of Hostilities (CCCH) took turns in delivering speeches in vernacular to brief their assembled countryside forces on the implementation status of the mandates in the Comprehensive Agreement on Bangsamoro (CAB) and R.A. 11054.

In the separate messages, base Commander Bashir Ampat, CCCH Chair Butch Malang and other MILF field officials appealed for more patience among their ranks and file amid perceived glitches in the implementation of normalization and political tracks envisioned in the CAB and R.A. 11054 or Bangsamoro Organic Law (BOL).   

The July 17 assembly was the latest in the series of manifestations – including provincial and regional resolutions, three huge motor caravans in Mindanao, and convergences in Metro Manila – meant to elicit a Presidential urgent push for the passage of the enabling bill by the 18th Congress.

On Monday, meanwhile, the League of Bangsamoro Organizations Inc. (LBO), which helped stage the three major caravans in recent weeks, announced that it would lead also the conduct of congregational but pandemic protocols-compliant prayers in selected mosques for the observance of Eid’l Adha on Tuesday to reiterate pleas for possible reconsideration of President Duterte’s neural policy in the quest for BTA lifespan extension.

LBO spokesman Abdulbasit Benito, in a media advisory, said the Civil Society Organizations Movement for Moral Governance (CSO MMG) in partnership with the Daawah Committee will stage the brief rally-prayers at the Grand Mosque Bobong, Al Borhan Mosque RH 4, Al Nor Mosque, Em Manor Mosque, Mabini Mosque, Al Motairi Mosque, Alil Amir Mosque, Maahad Mosque, Blue Mosque, and Doton RH 3 Mosque, all in this city.

The BIAF-MILF’s 40,000 members are principal beneficiaries under the normalization track, which seeks to transform them to peaceful and productive civilian life with enabling socio-economic enhancement packages worth one million pesos each after undergoing decommissioning in phases.   

Only more than 120,000 of MILF members have been decommissioned alongside their firearms in the first two phases. The third phase has been delayed due principally to the advent of the coronavirus pandemic, which prompted stiff social movement restrictions and the government’s diversion of corresponding fiscal resources to facing the health emergency.

The political track, on the other hand, prescribes for the implementations of efforts to build a robust parliament-type bureaucracy in the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM), with the legislation of basic enabling laws and codes on education, administrative, civil service, electoral system, local government, and revenue, among others.

The state-recognized delays in the normalization and political tracks have prompted various quarters including the BTA to pass formal manifestations urging President Duterte and the 18th Congress to defer the 2022 first election of 80 regular parliament members and extend the BTA lifespan to 2025.

Senators Koko Pimentel and Dickk Gordon had originally authored separate bills for the purpose, but the Senate has opted to substitute the measures with the version of Senator Francis Tolentino. The substitute bill was due for second plenary reading in the Senate before the June 3 adjournment sine die.

In the lower Chamber, four enabling bills are pending on committee level. They were authored by Maguindanao 2nd District Rep. Esmael “Toto” Mangudadatu, Deputy Speakers Loren Legarda and Isidro Ungab, and Majority Leader Martin Romualdez. A fifth bill was authored by Lanao del Norte Rep. Khalid Dimaporo, but it seeks to hold the polls on schedule and extend the transitional operations of the BARMM government to longer years. (AGM)

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