BARMM hails Congress’ push for BTA extension bills

By Ali G. Macabalang

COTABATO CITY – The Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao officialdom has hailed the Senate and House of Representatives’ leaderships and key members for pushing the passage of bills postponing the 2022 regional elections and extending the transitional BARMM lifespan to 2025.

The regional governance through BARMM spokesman Naguib Sinarimbo aired gratitude particularly to the chairs and members of the House joint committees for voting “overwhelmingly” Thursday, Aug. 26 on second reading to approve the committee report harmonizing bills related to extending the Bangsamoro Transition Authority (BTA) operations.

Sinarimbo specifically referred joint committees’ chairpersons Juliet Marie De Leon-Ferrer of Negros Occidental, Ansaruddin “Hooky” Alonto-Adiong of Lanao del Sur, and Esmael “Toto” Mangudadatu of Maguindanao, who were able to persuade and muster 40 affirmative votes and three dissenting votes in the second joint committee reading’s nominal voting.

“We thank all members of Congress who voted yes and in particular, Chairs Toto Mangudadatu, Cong Hooky Adiong, Cong Balindong, Cong Roonie Sinsuat, and all those who supported us in this long and arduous struggle to get the message across that the best interest of the Bangsamoro and the country lies in creating a stable and peaceful Bangsamoro thru the extension of the period of transition,” Sinarimbo said in a post.

Sinarimbo, concurrent regional Local Government minister, added: “The leadership of the UBJP (United Bangsamoro Justice Party) extends its profoundest gratitude to all of you!”

“Rest assured that gratitude is an attitude in this principled party,” said Minister Sinarimbo, who has been advocating for reforms in regional electoral exercises from personality and money-based polling to election by party principles.   

Hours before Sinarimbo’s post, legislative staff Beverly Ballitoc of Rep. Mangudadatu relayed the good news to the Philippine Muslim Today news, saying “this is breaking news” worth heralding promptly.

Ballitoc shared a photo showing her boss gesturing jubilantly in the House joint committees’ virtual hearing.

BARMM officials and supporters of extended BTA lifespan were a day earlier also buoyed by news on the Senate’s plenary approval on second reading of its counterpart Bill 2214 authored by Sen. Francis Tolentino.

Both news reports on actions of the House joint committee and the Senate plenary have ostensibly heightened the prospects for the two chambers to pass their respective bills and eventually hold bicameral conference to harmonize the same for enactment before the scheduled October 1-8 filing of candidacies for the 2022 synchronized polls.

The enactment of an enabling law of the bills will effectively exclude the BARMM’s electorate from electing the first regular members of the 80-seat regional parliament being played now by the BTA.

The BTA, composed of members and officers appointed by President Duterte for a term ending on June 30, 2022, is the interim governing body of the autonomous region.

The Mindanao People’s Caucus, a civil society group, after conducting a review of regional government activities in November last year, had recommended a longer period in the BTA operations. It cited the advent of the COVID-19 pandemic and other factors that would impede strides for the BTA to fulfill its mandates under R.A. 11054 or the Bangsamoro Organic Law (BOL).

Among others, the BTA is mandated to fully implement two major thrusts – the normalization track to decommission the 40,000 Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) combatants and their firearms and transform them into peaceful and productive civilians; and political track to building a strong autonomous government structure in BARMM. (AGM)

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