By Ali G. Macabalang
COTABATO CITY – The Senate passed on third and final reading today, Monday, Sept. 6, the bill deferring the first parliamentary polls in the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM) from May 2022 to May 2025.
Fifteen (15) senators voted for the passage of Senate Bill No. 2214, with three others voting against and another abstaining, according to the video record of the Senate session tonight.
Senator Francis Tolentino, bill sponsor, said postponing the election will “give us a chance to continue working towards attaining peace in the region and fully realizing the promises of the CAB (Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro).”
“Adding three more years to the transition period is nothing compared to the four decades of violent conflict and almost two decades of grueling negotiations between the Government of the Philippines and the MILF (Moro Islamic Liberation Front),” Tolentino said, citing the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic to the transition.
He also maintained that the measure does not trivialize the right to suffrage of the Bangsamoro people.
“But they should be transparent about the disbursement of public funds and they should finish the Electoral Code this 2022 to ensure the orderly conduct of elections come 2025,” Tolentino said, assuring his peers.
The bill states that upon the expiration of the terms of the incumbent members of the Bangsamoro Transition Authority (BTA), the President shall appoint 80 new members of BTA who will serve up to June 30, 2025.
In the House of Representatives, a committee report that consolidated five related proposals elections has been approved at the committee level.
Maguindanao Rep. Esmael “Toto” Mangudadatu and Basilan lone Rep. cum Deputy Speaker Mujiv Hataman earlier told the Philippine Muslim Today news that the harmonized bill would be submitted for plenary deliberation starting tomorrow, Tuesday. (AGM)
At tonight’s Senate hearing, Senator Dick Gordon, author of two bills substituted by Tolentino’s version, delivered the longest message explaining his approval vote.
Gordon recalled how he was touched by the “down-to-earth appeal for support) from now deceased MILF panel Chief Ghazali Jaafar.
He capped his message with a prayer for Jaafar, who died of lingering ailment on March 13, 2019 a few days after his appointment as member and speaker of the BTA parliament. (AGM)