DAVAO CITY (MindaNews / 14 Sept) – Voting viva voce, the House of Representatives passed on second reading Monday night House Bill 10121 extending until 2025 the transition period in the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM) by resetting the date of the first election of the 80-member Bangsamoro Parliament from May 2022 to May 2025.
The passage of the bill comes exactly a week after the Senate passed on third and last reading Senate Bill 2214 but the House and Senate versions differ on which President will appoint new members of the Bangsamoro Transition Authority (BTA), the body tasked to govern the BARMM during the transition period that would have ended on June 30, 2022, as provided by Republic Act 11054 or the Organic Law for the BARMM, but is being extended to June 30, 2025.
The Senate version leaves it to the next President to appoint the BTA members after the term of the incumbent BTA members expires on June 30, 2022. Its Section 2 provides that “upon the expiration of the terms of the incumbent members of the Bangsamoro Transition Authority (BTA), the President shall appoint the eighty members of the said BTA who shall serve up to June 30, 2025 or until their successors shall have been elected.”
President Rodrigo Duterte ends his six-year term at noon on June 30, 2022.
During the deliberations on August 25, when the Senate passed SB 2214 on second reading, senators from the majority and minority agreed to leave it to the next President to appoint the BTA members who will serve during the extended period from noon of June 30, 2022 to June 30, 2025.
HB 10121, which was approved by three committees, originally had the same Section 2 as the Senate’s, the provision copied verbatim. But 1st district Maguindanao Rep. Roonie Sinsuat proposed an amendment Monday night that the plenary approved, to read: “During the extension of the Transition Period, the BTA shall continue as the interim government in the BARMM provided that upon approval of this act the President shall appoint the 80 new interim members of the BTA who shall hold office until the May 2025 elections where duly elected officials shall have qualified and assumed office.”
The extended period being referred to by both the Senate and the House is that period from noon of June 30, 2022 to noon of June 30, 2025.
The September 13 passage on second reading of HB 10121 at the House came 18 days before the filing of certificates of candidacy for the May 9, 2022 polls. The first regular election of the 80-member Bangsamoro Parliament would have been synchronized on that day but Congress is resetting it to May 2025.
But the two houses of Congress will have to resolve which Section 2 will be approved during the bicameral conference that will be set after the House passes the bill on third and last reading hopefully next week.
Will they follow the Senate version and leave it to the next President to appoint the BTA members during the extended period from June 30, 2022 to June 30, 2025 or will they follow the House version and let the sitting President – Rodrigo Duterte – issue the appointments for the extended period beyond his term.
Basilan Rep and Deputy House Speaker Mujiv Hataman told MindaNews on Tuesday that he expects HB 10121 to be passed on third reading on Monday or Tuesday.
If the bill is passed on third reading on Monday, September 20, that will be 11 days before the filing of COCs on October 1.
Hataman said the two houses can immediately convene the bicameral conference after the bill’s passage on third reading. But he wonders if the two houses will be able to finish the conference before the filing of COCs on October 1 to 8.
In his sponsorship speech, 2nd district Maguindanao Rep. Esmael Mangudadatu, chair of the House Committee on Peace, Reconciliation and Unity, said extending the transition period was needed because there is not enough time “for both sides to deliver the remaining 65 to 75 percent (of deliverables) in the political task alone.”
Mangudadatu was referring to the political track of the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro (CAB) which government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) signed in March 2014. The peace agreement’s enabling law, Republic Act 11054, was passed during the Duterte administration, paving the way for the creation of the BARMM.
The two parties, however, have tasks that will not be completed within the remaining months of the Duterte administration, he said, adding since the national health emergency was declared in March last year because of COVID-19, this has affected the implementation of the peace agreement and the passage of priority codes such as the Bangsamoro Electoral Code that is supposed to govern the election of the BARMM Parliament.
The two parties have not completed the four-phase normalization track which involves, among others, the decommissioning of 40,000 combatants of the MILF’s Bangsamoro Islamic Armed Forces.
Under the Aquino administration, Phase 1 of the decommissioning process started in June 2015 with 145 combatants and 75 weapons, including 20 crew-served.
Under the Duterte administration, 1,060 of the first 12,000 combatants and 930 of 2,100 weapons to be decommissioned for Phase 2 were presented in formal rites on September 7, 2019 to President Duterte, the rest done across several months until 2020.
Decommissioned combatants were to be given 100,000 pesos financial assistance but Peace Process adviser Secretary Carlito Galvez announced on the eve of the decommissioning that they will be given a million peso worth of assistance that would include the 100,000 pesos plus scholarships for their children and housing, and socio-economic benefits, among others, similar to the package given to members of the New People’s Army who joined government.
“It just so happened that the Phase 3 of reintegration and decommissioning, for example, cannot proceed without the full implementation of Phase 2, and so on,” Mangudadatu said.
The two other phases of decommissioning to complete the process would involve 28,000 combatants. But there is not enough budget for the decommissioning process under the General Appropriations Act, said Lanao del Norte Mohamad Khalid Dimaporo, chair of the House Committee on Mindanao Affairs.
Hataman repeatedly asked Mangudadatu when the decommissioning would be completed. Mangudadatu sought a suspension of the session and later replied that the parties had committed to complete it “before the May 2025 elections.”
Hataman served as Governor of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) for seven years and two months, assuming the post as OIC from December 2011 to June 30, 2013 of an ARMM that was then described as a “failed experiment.” Hataman introduced reforms as OIC and was elected for two terms as governor of an autonomous region but he governed under a law whose provisions restricted the exercise of genuine autonomy, including fiscal autonomy.
Established in 1990, the ARMM was abolished when the BARMM was created in early 2019.
Hataman reminded his colleagues the need to ensure the success of the BARMM because failure in the BARMM “is not only a failure of the MILF and GPH. Higit sa lahat, failure ng Bangsamoro people.”
He said everyone must help to make the autonomous region succeed. BARMM, he added, should not be MILF exclusive or Maguindanao exclusive but all-inclusive. (Carolyn O. Arguillas / MindaNews)