By Ali G. Macabalang
COTABATO CITY – Bangsamoro interim Chief Minister Ahod “Hadji Murad” Ebrahim has echoed his administration’s elation over the approval in both chambers of Congress of separate bills deferring the 2022 regional Parliament polls and extending the lifespan of their interim ruling body to 2025, saying though that individual ministers may have their own choices of means in reciprocating.
In a recent podcast with Christian Esguerra of the ANC Ebrahim explained that his administration’s “official” message was to thank the leaderships and key members of the Senate and the House Representatives (HoR), and President Duterte for certifying the urgency of the bills legislative approval.
He took exception to Esguerra’s insinuation that Bangsamoro spokesman and Local Government Minister Naguib Sinarimbo purportedly expressed a “threat” to people who have opposed openly or discretely the move for extension in the operational period of the Bangsamoro Transition Authority (BTA).
Esguerra used the word “threat” at least five times and even interpreted it as to make “life miserable” for individuals or groups rejecting the bills approval.
In a Facebook post on Sept. 15, Minister Sinaribo said: “The House of Representatives will vote today on third and final reading House Bill No. 10121…after it received the certificate of necessity issued by President Rodrigo Duterte on the said measure.”
“Alhamdulillah! We thank all of those who supported this long and arduous journey. We shall forever be grateful to all of you and our people will express that gratitude during the 2022 elections,” he said.
“In like manner, we have taken note of those who openly as well as those who secretly maneuvered to derail this process and endangered the peace process and sabotaged the implementation of the peace agreement that many of our people labored to achieve over a long period of time. We certainly know how to respond in adequate measure when the time comes,” Sinarimbo added.
The Chief Minister said the message of Sinarimbo, a lawyer, was his individual expression of sentiment but it was not a “threat” or meant with harmful intent.
“I don’t think it’s a threat,” he stressed out, saying that Sinarimbo could be referring to majority Bangsamoro people’s possible option not to vote for people seeking election in local or national posts in the 2022 elections.
Ebrahim added: “Very popular ang support as far as the extension…Sa 2022 elections ay alam ng mga tao kung sino ang sumuporta at sino ang hindi…Gusto naman nila na ang BARMM (Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao) government (will enjoy) close (rapport with) local and national officials.”
Local political pundits have shared the Chief Minister’s explanation, saying BTA extension supporters are “very likely” inclined to shun politicians opposed to their cause.
“After all, it is the right of every voter to elect or reject candidates in every election, which is their moment of reprisal,” a university social sciences professor told the Philippine Muslim Today news.
Senators approved on third and final reading Senate Bill 2214 authored by Sen. Francis Tolentino on Sept. 6 with 15-3-1 votes. Senators Ping Lacson, Ralph Recto and Manny Pacquaio voted against, which Senator Imee Marcos who had earlier cast staunch opposition.
Last Wednesday, Sept. 15, the HoR approved on third and final reading its version or House Bill 10121, sponsored mainly by Maguindanao 2nd Rep. Esmael Mangudadatu, with 187 votes sans dissenting or abstention vote among 200 lawmakers present physically or virtually.
In the first reading of the bill at the joint committee level, 40 members cast voted for it with three dissenting votes cast by Lanao del Norte Rep. Khalid Dimaporo (who voted twice for his two committees) and Sultan Kudarat Princess Mangudadatu-Sakaluran, sister of Sultan Kudarat Gov. Suharto Mangudadatu.
In past debates on the BTA extension proposal, Cotabato City Mayor Cynthia Guiani-Sayadi and Sulu Gov. Sakur Tan had openly campaigned against it, asserting the need for their constituents to exercise rights of suffrage in the choice of BARMM elected officials via the 2022 polls.
Maguindanao Gov. Mariam Sangki-Mangudadatu, wife of the Sultan Kudarat governor, and their supporters earlier expressed support to the BTA extension via official manifestos. But unconfirmed reports said rumors reaching the media said she and her camp had changed heart and opposed the proposal discretely. The camp has yet to confirm or deny the reports publicly. (AGM)