Moro network presses Congress to extend Bangsamoro transition period

KORONADAL CITY (MindaNews / 4 May) – An umbrella of Moro civic groups in the country pressed Congress anew on Tuesday to immediately approve the proposal extending for another three years the transition period in the Bangsamoro region, considering that time is almost running out before lawmakers adjourn their session.

Supporters of the extension of the Bangsamoro transition period for another three years stage a rally outside the Philippine Senate in Pasay City in March 2021. Photo courtesy of Mindanao Peoples Caucus

At the same time, the One Bangsamoro Movement, Inc. (1Bangsa), which counts at least 60 Moro groups as members, pleaded President Rodrigo Duterte to certify as priority measure the bill extending the transition period in the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM), as his gift to Muslim Filipinos for the holy month of Ramadhan.

Alan Balangi-Amer, 1Bangsa president, said the favorable action of Congress and the President to extend the term of the Bangsamoro Transition Authority (BTA) until June 2025 will augur well in achieving genuine peace in Mindanao.

“Various sectors had spoken loud and clear in endorsing the BTA extension,” he said in a statement.

In a phone interview, Balangi-Amer said that majority of Muslim Filipinos in the country favor the extension of the transition period in the BARMM to sustain the gains of the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro (CAB).

The CAB is the final peace agreement between the government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) signed in 2014 after 17 years of negotiations.

“We need to sustain the trajectory of peace generally prevailing now over the Bangsamoro region and the rest of Mindanao, and that can be done by allowing the extension of the transition period in the BARMM for the implementation of the provisions of the peace agreement,” he said.

Following the creation of the BARMM two years ago, the government and the MILF are implementing the CAB’s normalization track, which includes the decommissioning of MILF fighters and their weapons and transforming recognized MILF camps into peaceful economic zones.

Balangi-Amer stressed that Congress is mandated by the Constitution to build a just and humane society.

“The Congress has now a very rare opportunity to perform that duty. It is now in the hands of Congress to give extra time for the Bangsamoro transition and be an instrument in building a just and humane society in Mindanao,” he said.

He stressed the need for Congress to act immediately, noting that it has a few more session days before it adjourns sine die on June 4.

As for Duterte’s certification of the proposal as a priority measure, Balangi-Amer said it “will complement the efforts in Congress for the timely passage of the bill.”

In March, peace advocacy groups submitted to Malacañang one million signatures calling on Duterte to certify the transition extension bill as a priority measure.

The term of the MILF-led BTA, which governs the BARMM government, will end on June 30, 2022, when the new set of elected officials shall have taken their oath of office.

Lawyer Mary Ann Arnado, secretary general of the Mindanao People’s Caucus (MPC), earlier said that the calls to extend the transition period do not cover the personalities appointed to the BTA but only the term of the body.

The MPC, a grassroots network of Bangsamoro, Christian and Lumad peace advocates in Mindanao, conducted a mid-term review of the transition from ratification of the Bangsamoro law on January 25, 2019 until September 30, 2020.

It recommended the extension for the transition government to fully accomplish their priority tasks and duties, especially those that need to be jointly implemented with their national government counterparts and due to the difficult demands of the normalization process and the larger context of the CAB implementation.

Supporters of the extension noted that the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic hampered the efforts of the Bangsamoro and national governments and the MILF to implement the provisions of the peace agreement. (Bong S. Sarmiento / MindaNews)