PEACETALK: Why President Duterte should certify as urgent the Bill extending the life of the BTA


We disagreed with almost all that President Rodrigo Duterte has said and done, and detested him for not doing so many great things that we believe should be done. But, we heartily appeal to the President to save his golden legacy to the Filipino nation by certifying as urgent the bills now pending in Congress seeking extension of the life of the Bangsamoro Transition Authority (BTA) for another, but final, three years.

The government’s compliance of its obligation under the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro (CAB) did not end with the President’s signing into law of what is now known as the Bangsamoro Organic Law (BOL), a basic law establishing the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM) and setting the fundamental parameters for its governance.

The passage of the BOL, therefore, is not the “be-all” and the “end-all” as far as the CAB and the whole peace process is concerned.

More than this, however, it is also necessary that all enabling laws governing the affairs of the BARMM, which are compliant with the CAB, should, first, be put in place before the first regular election is held. There is no other way.

If otherwise, we open the winding up period for the implementation of CAB in Mindanao to floodgates of dubious workshops of political elites in the region. Allowing this to happen could bring the peace process back to square one, or, even pedaling it back far behind from where it started.

We do not think that President Duterte, and his government, will allow his golden legacy to the Filipino nation to end in a dismal way, and be eventually buried into the abyss of failure and ignominy.

Thus, we wholeheartedly appeal to the President to act fast, and now, as few more days is left for him to seize that singular opportunity to save the peace process and, at the same time, preserve his wonderful legacy to the nation and the Filipino people.

It is our contention that the three-year transition period – originally allotted for the interim Bangsamoro Parliament  to pass all necessary local (regional) legislations necessary for the effective and efficient governance of the BARMM and to reorganize or restructure its bureaucracy in a manner reflective of the aspirations of the Bangsamoro people – is not enough.

For us to contend otherwise is to believe in the power of magic. The members of the BTA, while known mostly to be red-blooded revolutionaries, are not super humans.

It is not at all within the ambit of logical possibility that the BTA, working hand-in-hand with the interim Bangsamoro Parliament, composed of representatives of various revolutionary and non-revolutionary forces chosen by both the MILF and the Philippine Government, could pass, within the period of three years, various legislations indispensable for the governance of the BARMM, like its local government code, administrative code, civil service code, electoral  code, code on the use and utilization of natural resources, code on the regional police,  accounting and auditing code and many other important social legislations necessary for self-governance of the Bangsamoro as mandated in the CAB.

Thus far, the BTA has been able to pass the Bangsamoro Administrative Code and the Civil Service Code  while all other bills necessary for the governance of the BARMM are still pending for discussion either at committee levels or in the plenary.

All these the BTA does while establishing a new, effective and efficient bureaucracy in the BARMM, exerting great efforts for the transfer of funds from the national government to the BARMM as provided for the in the BOL, maintaining peace and order in the region, mobilizing various government agencies to perform their respective functions as embodied in the BOL, while, at the same time, responding to the urgent social, economic and health needs of the people in the region and in other Moro and IP communities amid the onslaughts of the COVID-19 pandemic.

There are some people who say that the postponement of the first regular election in the BARMM is making democracy dead in the region. This argument is a fallacy because it assumes that there really exists genuine democracy in the BARMM during the pre-BOL period.

The main intendment of the CAB and the BOL is to free the Bangsamoro people from the stranglehold of traditional elitist and patronage politics that have alienated them from their dreams and aspirations for an abundant and meaningful life, under the tenets of lasting peace, social justice and democracy, for many decades.

The people’s freedom from such oppressive and alienating social, political and economic system cannot be attained if the various enabling laws that make them possible and obligatory are not put in place, and are strongly entrenched in the BARMM.

Therefore, with due respect to the propagator of such idea, the extension of the BTA is a formula for the Bangsamoro people’s enjoyment of sustaining democracy in the BARMM, and not to spell its demise.

Moreover, we cannot imagine how the first regular elections in the BARMM can be conducted in the absence of the electoral code, which will govern such elections.

For instance, how can the legislative district representatives, comprising 40% of the members of the Bangsamoro Parliament, be elected when there is no law yet that provides how many legislative districts there should be in the BARMM, the respective geographical jurisdiction of these legislative districts, and how many representatives shall be elected in every such district?

In another instance, if we proceed with the regular election in the BARMM, in the absence of the electoral code, how shall we elect the 50% of the members of the Bangsamoro Parliament who are to be elected through the system of proportional representation, and the 10% of its members who are to be elected by the members of different sectors identified in the BOL?

Clearly, thus, to proceed with the regular election in the BARMM, in the absence of the electoral code, is a grand flirtation to social chaos, if not wholly destructive. It would surely destroy every piece of gain that has been achieved for a little less than three decades of peace negotiation in Mindanao.

For us, the advocacy that pushes for the election in the BARMM in the absence of the electoral code is not only off-tangent, but it is also ridiculous.

There are people who also opined that the transition works of the BTA can just be continued by the members of the parliaments who would be elected in the 2022 regular elections in the BARMM, granting, without admitting, that such elections can be conducted in the absence of the electoral code.

Excuse me!

The attainment of the long-yearned dreams and aspirations of the Bangsamoro people cannot just be entrusted to a minute section of the population in the BARMM who perpetuate and benefit from the elitist and patronage political system prevailing in the region since the advent our republic.

It is stupid to entrust the transformation of the oppressive and alienating system prevailing in the BARMM upon those who created it, and are benefiting from it.

This ridiculous proposition is not only treading on dangerous ground, but it could even turn out to be destructive against the peace process. It could put to total waste the blood that has been poured by our forefathers, and the many dreams that they have sacrificed in the altar of their struggle, all in the name of peace founded on equity and justice.

The officers and members of the MILF, with the peace process that they pursue, teach us how to build a kind of government that is far more democratic, inclusive and accountable than our own. We should look at them with utmost fascination as we tail or follow them in the race for the democratization of our respective societies.

Rather than shooting them down by not entrusting them of the task to complete the peace process for the next three years, we should instead support their leaders, and by doing so, we can derive precious lessons from them as we strive to transform our own governmental system.

Finally, to President Duterte: history may judge you harshly because of your perceived ineptitude, your graft-ridden government, and your murderous regime as seen by many quarters. But, for us, the future generations of Filipinos will surely remember you as one leader who had left for them a priceless legacy of genuine and lasting peace, not only in Mindanao, but the whole nation.

We, ourselves, will be very proud to tell our children and our children’s children about the legacy of genuine and lasting peace that you bequeathed upon them and the generations yet to come.

Mr. President, save your golden legacy to the nation. Please certify as urgent the Bill which seeks for the extension of the life of the BTA for another, but final, three years.

[MindaViews is the opinion section of MindaNews. Ben Sumog-oy is the Action Officer of the In Defense of Human Rights and Dignity Movement , General Santos City Chapter (IDEFEND-GenSan), Volunteer Head of the Para-legal Unit of the Sentro ng mga Progresibo at Nagkakaisang Manggagawa-SOCSKSARGEN (Sentro-SOCSKSARGEN) and of the Local Mass Struggle (LMS) Unit of Akbayan-GenSan]