Only 45 session days left to act on bills to extend Bangsamoro transition to 2025

DAVAO CITY (MindaNews / 06 December) —  Two bills have been filed in the House of Representatives seeking to extend the transition period in the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM by another three years by resetting the first regular election from May 9, 2022 to May 12, 2025.]

Presidential Peace Adviser Carlito Galvez told the House’s Special Committee on Peace, Reconciliation and Unity on November 26 that President Duterte “believes that three years is too short and he agrees for the possible extension of the BTA up to five to six years” or until 2025 or 2026.

Extension, however, requires legislation as Republic Act 11054 or the Organic Law for the BARMM  provides that first regular election is synchronized with the May 2022 elections. The three-year transition period is supposed to end at noon on June 30, 2022, when the first set of elected officials shall have taken their oath.

Members of the Bangsamoro Transition Authority discuss the fate of the proposed Bangsamoro Administrative Code during special session at the Shariff Kabunsuan Complex in Cotabato City on 28 October 2020. MindaNews photo by FERDINANDH CABRERA

MindaNews checked the congressional calendar and found there are only 45 session days (Mondays to Wednesdays) from December 7, 2020 until Congress adjourns sine die on June 4, 2021.

From December 7, there are only six session days left until the House of Representatives and the Senate take a break from December 18 to January 17.

From January 18 to March 26, there are 30 session days until Congress again takes a break from March 27 to May 16; and nine session days from May 17 until Congress adjourns sine die on June 4.

Filing of certificates of candidacy for the May 2022 elections is in October 2021.

Legarda and Mangudaatu bills

Two bills were filed in the House – HB 8116 by Capiz lone district Rep. Loren Legarda and HB 8117 by Maguindanao 2nd district Rep. Esmael Mangudadatu – on December 1. No bill has been filed in the Senate as of December 4.

The Legarda bill seeks to postpone the first regular election for the Bangsamoro Government to 2025 to allow the 80-member Bangsamoro Transition Authority (BTA), the body tasked to govern the BARMM during the transition period, to “attend to more urgent needs of the Bangsamoro people, while allowing them to strengthen the foundations for stronger regional government and economy.”

Mangudadatu posted on his Facebook page on December 2 that the Special Committee on Peace, Reconciliation and Unity which he chairs, and the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process (OPAPP)  and the  GRP-BTA Intergovernmental Relations Board (IGRB) “are united that our desired peace and progress in Muslim Mindanao will not be derailed by the lack of time to fully implement what had been agreed upon in the CAB” (Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro), the peace agreement signed by government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) on March 27, 2014.

Mangudadatu said  HB 8117 is a product of several committee hearings where they found  there are tasks that have not been finished or cannot be delivered as yet by both the national government and  the MILF-led BTA because of the many constraints and difficulties, exacerbated by COVID-19.

Appointments, Replacements, Selection 

The BTA is an 80-member body appointed by the President, 41 nominated by the MILF and 39 nominated by the government, in accordance with the 2014 Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro which provides that the transition  government is MILF-led

If the transition period is extended, it is up to the President as the appointing power, to extend or renew the term of his  BTA appointees or replace them.

But Bangsamoro spokesperson Naguib Sinarimbo, concurrent Minister of Interior and Local Government, told MindaNews that same formula of 41-39 will still be followed based on the peace agreement.

Lumad leader Santos Unsad, Assistant Supreme Tribal Chief of the Timuay Justice and Governance, and Baibonn Sanguid, Chief Executive Officer of  Halal Education Technology and former chair of the Young Moro Professionals Network,  said they are not for extension of the transition period but if it will be extended, it should not follow that the terms of the BTA members would be extended, too. Performance has to be considered, the two said in an online forum on the Bangsamoro initiated by the Ateneo de Davao Univeristy last Friday.

Unsad said the two Lumad representatives in the BTA should be replaced by representatives nominated by the Lumads themselves  while Sangid said it should be “extension but with proper selection and screening” of BTA appointees.

“For the record, I am not against BTA. I abhor inaction, incompetence and non-performing asset,” Sangid told MindaNews.

Parliamentary system

Under RA 1054, the BTA is supposed to enact these priority Bangsamoro codes: Administrative, Revenue, Electoral, Local Government and Education. Only the Administrative Code has been passed.

Other laws that the BTA is supposed to pass are  the Bangsamoro Civil Service, and a law to recognize, protect, promote and preserve the rights of Indigenous Peoples in the Bangsamoro region.

The BTA is also tasked to determine the parliamentary districts for the first regular election,

As a parliamentary system of government, voters in the Bangsamoro are supposed to elect 80 Members of Parliament: 40 party representatives, 32 district representatives and eight for reserved seats. Its system of election is supposed to be governed under the Bangsamoro Electoral Code which has yet to be passed.

Midterm review

The interim Bangsamoro Parliament passed Resolution 93 on November 17, urging the House of Representatives and the Senate to extend the transition period until June 30, 2025 to give the transition government “sufficient time to continue in performing its powers and functions and fulfill its mandate.”

Basilan Rep. and Deputy House Speaker Mujiv Hataman said a midterm review of what has been done and not done during the first half of the transition period is needed as he also asked extension proponents to “present, in clear and attainable sets of goals, a roadmap of what they intend to accomplish if the transitory government is extended for another three years until 2025.”

Hataman said he will file a resolution in the House of Representatives asking the appropriate committee to conduct a midterm review, in aid of legislation, of the Bangsamoro transition. Hataman told MindaNews on December 3 that he has drafted the resolution but will await copies of the reports from the Bangsamoro government and the Third Party Monitoring Team (TPMT) set up by the government and MILF “to monitor the implementation of all agreements” until the Exit Agreement is signed.

The Mindanao Peoples Caucus, a peace advocacy group that has been accompanying the Bangsamoro peace process since 2002, last month presented the results of its midterm review of the Bangsamoro transition, where extension of the transition period was among the recommendations of those who participated in focus group discussions and key informant interviews.

The BARMM, which comprises the provinces of  Maguindanao, Lanao del Sur, Basilan, Sulu and Tawi-tawi and the cities of Marawi, Lamitan and Cotabato, and 63 villages in North Cotabato, was inaugurated on March 29, 2019.  Supervision over Cotabato City will be transferred from the Department of Interior and Local Government to the Bangsamoro Ministry of Interior and Local Government on December 15.  (Carolyn O. Arguillas / MindaNews)