PRRD defers BARMM polls, extends transition to 2025

By Ali G. Macabalang

COTABATO CITY – President Rodrigo Duterte has reset the 2022 first regular election of the Bangsamoro parliament members and extended the transitional period of the regional autonomous government to 2025, drawing praises from proponents and supporters tangled in months of debate with some opposing quarters.

He signed on Thursday, Oct. 28 Republic Act (RA) No. 11593 legislated via Senate Bill 2214 and House Bill 10121 to give the interim Bangsamoro governance ample time to complete efforts in building its bureaucracy and transforming Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) members into peaceful and productive civilian life.

The new edict amends R.A. 11054 or Bangsamoro Organic Law (BOL), which set the date of the regional parliament elections in time with synchronized national and local polls on May 9. 2022.

It thus extended the lifespan of the Bangsamoro Transition Authority (BTA) from 2022 to 2025. The BTA, the interim ruling body of Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao, has 80 members named by Duterte before he formally installed the BARMM entity here on March 29, 2019.

R.A. 11593 authorizes the President to retain the present BTA members, whose office term ends on June 30, 2022, or appoint new members to serve until the election of successors in 2025, according to Philippine Muslim Today news sources including Maguindanao 2nd District Rep. Esmael “Toto” Mangudadatu.

The edict also allows the next President to review the performance of Duterte’s appointees or name new members, Rep. Mangudadatu said.

Mangudadatu is lead sponsor of House Bill 10121, which was harmonized with Senate Bill 2214 authored by Senator Francis “Tol” Tolentino.

The bills became law to take effect 15 days after publication in the Official Gazette or newspaper of wide circulation, reckoned upon their signing by President Duterte last Thursday, Oct. 28, according to legal minds.   

The law would ensure the fulfillment of provisions under the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro (CAB) forged by the National Government with the MILF in 2018. The CAB is the basis of R.A. 11054 or BOL enacted in July 2018.

The CAB and BOL prescribe for two main thrusts: The Normalization Track meant to decommission MILF members so as to transform them to peaceful and productive civilian life; and the Political Track for building a parliament setup in BARMM. 

BTA members led by MILF chairman and BARMM interim Chief Minister Ahod “Hadji Murad” Ebrahim alongside civil society groups had aggressively pushed for the regional poll postponement. They said the BTA needed more time to implement the BOL, given delays in implementing their mandated thrusts aggravated by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Their campaign had drawn division among elected officials in BARMM, with the local governments of Lanao del Sur, Maguindanao, Basilan and Tawi-Tawi rallying it, while those of Sulu and Cotabato City opposed openly.

When the enabling bills were filed in Congress, BARMM officials said, the Maguindanao provincial leadership shifted stance and allied with the opposing quarters “discretely.”

After the passage of SB 2214 and HB 10121 and their ratification in September, opposing quarters allegedly lobbied for a Presidential veto. The alleged veto campaign prompted the BARMM leadership and Rep. Mangudadatu to meet the President on Oct. 20 and enlighten him, regional officials earlier said.

On Oct. 26, the proponent team and the opposing group led by Maguindanao Gov. Mariam Sangki-Mangudadatu and Cotabato City Mayor Cynthia Guiani-Sayadi returned to the Palace to hear from President Duterte his decision on the BTA extension and its political implication among the protagonists.

The President reportedly said the “BTA extension is already a law.” Senior Minister Abdulraof Macacua construed the remark with two meanings: Either the bills were signed before the meeting or would be left to lapse into law by end of this month.

But Rep. Mangudadatu said he was assured by the President to “affix his signature” before Oct. 30 and Duterte was brokering a covenant for peaceful, orderly and honest conduct of elections in Cotabato City and Maguindanao where the MILF’s United Bangsamoro Justice Party (UBJP) has fielded full slates of candidates.

BARMM Spokesman Naguib Sinarimbo had explained that the fielding of UBJP candidates, led in Maguindanao by Rep. Mangudadatu as gubernatorial standard bearer, in return of gratitude to those who painstakingly rallied the BTA extension campaign.

Sinarimbo, a BARMM local government minister and UBJP deputy secretary general, said the MILF party wanted to ensure that elected provincial, city, municipal and Congressional leaders in the autonomous region would cooperate with the Bangsamoro administration.

The UBJP fielded a city slate led by mayoral candidate Bruce dela Cruz-Matabalao to face reelection-seeking Mayor Guiani-Sayadi, who had openly voiced objection to the inclusion of her turn in the BARMM territory and that she did not recognize administrative authority over this city.

In her Facebook page on Oct. 27, Mayor Guiani-Sayadi posted a statement mentioning a national cabinet cluster’s purported suggestion for the withdrawal of UBJP’s certificate of nomination and acceptance (CONA) of the regional candidates in the city and Maguindanao.

She said the Oct. 26 Palace meeting tackled a “small group discussion between the Mangudadatus to clear certain issues” and that Rep. Mangudadatu and Gov. Sangki-Mangudadatu agreed on the conduct of the gubernatorial race in honest and peaceful fashion.

Mayor Sayadi said their allied camp also sought a restriction for the BTA and MILF organizations not to be used in the UBJP electoral campaign.

She claimed there was also a “deadlock” on the apportionment of MILF’s 41 nominees would be appointed BTA’s 80 members.

Meanwhile, Rep. Mangudadatu said joined the “Tapatan” forum today (Saturday) of the Bangsamoro Press Corps (BPC) to update in details on what transpired before and during President Duterte’s signing of R.A. 11593. A story on this will follow in the Philippine Muslim Today news.

He earlier appealed to political supporters not to fan fire between his camp and that of the Gov. Mariam backed by husband-Governor Suharto “Teng” Mangudadatu of Sultan Kudarat, a province not part of BARMM territory.

“We are relatives,” said the lawmaker, who assured to reach out to his second cousin Gov. Mangudadatu and offer reconciliation after the May 9 elections next year. (AGM)

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