By Ali G. Macabalang
COTABATO CITY – Supporters of calls for deferment of the 2022 Bangsamoro parliament polls staged a last ditch of plea for President Rody Duterte to reconsider certifying the enabling bills as urgent and ensure the fruition of the new autonomous government as his administration lifetime legacy for stable peace and equitable growth in Mindanao.
Thousands of supporters, led openly this time by members of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front’s (MILF’s) United Bangsamoro Justice Party) and backed by consistent followers of Congressman Esmael Mangudadatu, staged brief caravans and pocket rallies in strategic areas of Maguindanao North Cotabato and nearby places in Lanao del Sur on July 24 to beseech a Presidential push for Congress to pass the enabling measure promptly.
“We appeal to the good heart of our President to break from neutrality and ask Congress to pass the harmonized bill in a fashion we never forget about him,” Sahida, a fatigue uniform-clad UBJP female member, told The Philippine Muslim Today news in the vernacular.
Sahida was one of dozens of mostly female UBJP members that caught the attention of travelling journalists while lined up on the roadside of the national highway along Sultan Kudarat, Maguindanao waving fliers and flashing streamers that contained words of appeal to the Chief Executive and Congress.
For his part, Rep. Mangudadatu and his thousands of followers staged pocket rallies and short caravans along the highway linking Maguindanao’s capital Buluan town to adjacent municipalities on the same day, chanting consistent calls for the Duterte administration to extend the operation of the Bansamoro Transition Authority (BTA) for it to fully carry out the its mandates under existing peace agreements and R.A. 11054.
Mangudadatu, who chairs the House Committee on Peace, Unity and Reconciliation, said Saturday’s caravans and rallies were timely to convey messages for the possibility of President Duterte to include in his July 26 final State-of-the Nation Address (SONA) an announcement for Congress to pass promptly the enabling bills.
He authored one of four similar bills seeking to postpone the 2022 parliament election and extend the BTA lifespan to 2025. The House leadership has formed a technical working group to harmonize his bills and those of Majority Floor Leader Martin Romualdez and Deputy Speakers Loren Legarda and Isidro Ungab.
A substitute bill, authored by Senator Francis Tolentino, is pending approval of second reading in the Senate and will likely be passed in just a month’s time under normal situation, Senate Majority Leader Juan Miguel Zuniri revealed at a Bangsamoro government-sponsored regional summit here on July 23 via Zoom.
Earlier published reports had cited Senate President Tito Sotto and House Speaker Lord Allan Velasco as assuring once the President that their chambers could pass the poll-postponing bills swiftly once certified urgent by the Chief Executive.
Palace Spokesman Harry Roque had announced that the President declared neutrality last June 24 on the fate of the bills due to the disagreement among officials of the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM) and some elected leaders in the region.
Roque said Mr. Duterte opted to leave the issue for Congress to decide because of the contrasting opinions of the Justice Department and the Presidential Chief Legal Counsel on whether deferring the polls would entail a plebiscite.
The Senate and the House leaderships will jointly host on Monday, July 25 for the last time Duterte’s SONA, marking the resumption of the 18th Congress sessions.
Rep. Mangudadatu, more known in his community as “Toto,” prodded anew his fellow lawmakers that the BARMM replaced the 29-year old Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM), which charters had been amended eight times and the elections therein were reset without any plebiscite.
He said the evolution of autonomy for Muslim Mindanao, especially the birth of the BARMM had involved the loss of close to 200,000 lives and heavy magnitudes of socio-economic dislocations for decades.
“I wish to remind the public and my colleagues in the legislature about a religious narrative that ‘saving one life is as good as saving the whole humanity,” Mangudadatu told The Philippine Muslim Today news. (AGM)