Lacson-BARMM leaders meet on BTA extension urged

By Ali G. Macabalang

COTABATO CITY – Senator Panfilo Lacson and Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM) officials should meet and iron out issues about the call for the extension of the regional entity’s interim operations, according to Senate Majority Floor Leader Juan Miguel Zubiri.

During plenary session on Aug. 4, Senator Zubiri asked the Senate to invite Commission on Elections (Comelec) Chairman Sheriff Abas or his commissioners on Aug. 23 for them to shed light on conflicting views about the call postponed the 2022 BARMM parliament polls as required in the extension move under Senate Bill 2214.

“From there (Comelec presentation), we can move on,” Zubiri told the Senate leadership through its secretariat.

At the Aug. 4 plenary session, Sen. Francis Tolentino, SB 2214 author, tried to continue his sponsorship testimony on scheduled interpellation by Sen. Lacson, but acceded later to Zubiri’s proposal.

Zubiri and Lacson said the latter was supposed to have a meeting with BARMM officials, but the imposition of the enhanced community quarantine (ECQ) in Metro Manila for Aug. 6-20 prevented the convergence.

“I strongly urge and appeal to the BARMM officials to set a meeting with Senator Lacson as soon as the lockdown is over,” said Zubiri, the main author of R.A. 11054, which created BARMM.

Among the regional officials highly expected to meet Lacson is BARMM spokesman Naguib Sinarimbo, a lawyer who had reportedly assisted Zubiri in the fine tuning of the edict, also known as the Bangsamoro Organic Law (BOL).

Sinarimbo earlier told The Philippine Muslim Today news that SB 2214 was likely to gain swift passage in the Senate because majority members were supportive with just about three quite opposed.

Sinarimbo would not name names, but observers said the three lawmakers perceived to be opposing the bill were Senators Imee Marcos, Franklin Drilon and Lacson.

At the Aug. 4 session, however, Lacson manifested that he was “not trying to delay” the deliberation of the bill, hinting at ensuring the need for refined legislative measures passed by Congress.

Sen. Tolentino, for his part, manifested that by Aug. 23, the Comelec will have only 39 days to prepare for the 2022 synchronized elections through processes including crafting and printing of ballots.

Amid snowballing calls for deferment of the 2022 first BARMM parliament poll to extend the Bangsamoro Transition Authority (BTA) lifespan to 2025, Senators Koko Pimentel and Dick Gordon filed two similar bills, which have been harmonized into the substitute bill of Tolentino.

Several quarters have urged President Duterte to certify the bill urgently. But his spokesman Harry Roque announced on June 24 that the President opted for “neutral” stand due to two factors: The disagreement among BARMM officials and some local elected leaders; and the contrasting views of Justice Sec. Menardo Guevarra and Presidential Chief Legal Counsel Salvador Panelo on the question of a plebiscite.

In the House of Representatives, the four counterpart bills were being harmonized by the Technical Working Group of the joint Committees on Suffrage and Electoral Reforms, Muslim Affairs and Peace, Reconciliation & Unity, Rep. Esmael “Toto” Mangudadatu said in a post on Aug. 4.

Mangudadatu remained optimistic that the 18th Congress will be able to approve a harmonized measure before the filing of certificates of candidacy on Oct. 1-5 for the 2022 polls. (AGM)

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