Peace advocates press Congress anew to pass Bangsamoro extension bill

Participants of a peace caravan sign a manifesto during a short stop in Matling, Malabang in Lanao del Sur on Saturday, 12 March 2021, urging President Rodrigo Duterte to certify as urgent the bills seeking to extend the transition period in the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao for another three years from 2022 to 2025. (Photo courtesy of Ariel Amerol, Bangsamoro Development Agency)

KORONADAL CITY (MindaNews / 27 May) – Peace advocates on Thursday called on the Philippine Congress anew to pass a law extending the transition period in the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM) for another three years, fearing a failure might lead to the eruption of violence in Moro areas in the south.


This developed as President Rodrigo Duterte has yet to respond to the petition of at least one million individuals, which was submitted to Malacanang on March 18, to certify the extension of the transition period as a priority legislative measure of the ruling administration.


Lawyer Mary Ann Arnado, secretary general of the Mindanao People’s Caucus, said that senators have been racing against time for the plenary deliberation of Senate Bill 2214, which seeks to reset the holding of the first elections in the BARMM from 2022 to 2025.


She said that senators, who usually conduct sessions from Monday to Wednesday, agreed to hold a session Thursday afternoon to continue tackling the measure given the short time before they adjourn next week.


But in the House of Representatives, the bills seeking to extend the term of the Bangsamoro Transition Authority (BTA), the interim body tasked to govern the BARMM government until June 30, 2022, remained stalled in the committee level with just four session days until Congress adjourns sine die on June 4, she added.


“If the extension of the transition period hurdles the Senate, which we are positive it will be, but not in the House of Representatives, consider the bid as a dead horse,” Arnado told an online press conference.


According to her, Duterte’s certification of the extension bill as a legislative priority measure is crucial for the Lower House to expedite their action on the matter.


Professor Abdulhadi Daguit, chair of the Federation of Bangsamoro Coordinating Councils of the Philippines, said that Malacanang remains mum on the petition of at least one million individuals for Duterte to certify the extension bill as the administration’s legislative priority.


“There’s still no feedback from Malacañang about the one million signatures that we submitted back in March,” he told the same presser.


Malacanang announced earlier that Duterte favors the bid to extend the transition period in the Bangsamoro region.


In the past two days, Daguit said they have been rallying at the Senate grounds, under the scorching heat, for the passage of the extension of the transition period in the Bangsamoro.  


For the lawmakers who will not support the term of the BTA, he warned they could lose the “Bangsamoro vote” during the 2022 elections.


Daguit said the gains of the Bangsamoro peace process need to be sustained, which “can be done with the extension of the transition phase in the BARMM.”


“We are supporting the extension of the transition period for peace and for the sake of the future Bangsamoro generations,” he stressed.


Samsodin Amella, convenor of the Civil Society Organizations Movement for Moral Governance, said that extending the life of the BTA will allow the BARMM government to implement the spirit of Republic Act 11054 or the Organic Law for the BARMM, popularly known as the Bangsamoro Organic Law (BOL), and the larger Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro (CAB).


Supporters of the move to extend the transition period in the BARMM present the one million signatures they had gathered as of 17 March 2021. They will submit these to Malacañang for President Rodrigo Duterte’s consideration. Photo courtesy of Mindanao Peoples Caucus

Two years after the creation of the BARMM, he noted that the BTA has so far approved only the administrative, civil and education codes of the region.


“If the transition period will not be extended, the BTA will a have hard time delivering the priority legislations mandated by the BOL,” Amella said.


The BTA has yet to approve the electoral, local government and revenue codes, the other priority legislations under the BOL.


In November 2020, the Bangsamoro parliament passed a resolution urging Congress to extend the transition period, as the implementation of its targets have been hampered by the ongoing onslaught of the coronavirus disease pandemic.


The creation of the Bangsamoro region is a key component of the CAB, the peace deal between the government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) signed in 2014 after 17 years of peace negotiations.


Under the CAB’s Annex on Normalization, MILF fighters have to be decommissioned and their camps transformed into peaceful and productive economic zones.


At least 12,000 of the 40,000-strong MILF combatants have been decommissioned as of last year.


Carlito Galvez Jr., Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process said the implementation of the decommissioning process has been pushed back by the pandemic.


Hashim Manticayan, chair of the League of Bangsamoro Organizations, said that extending the transition period will give both the national and Bangsamoro governments time to implement the provisions of the CAB to achieve a just and lasting peace in Mindanao.


“We want to sustain the gains of the Bangsamoro peace process so that we will not return to our dark and violent past,” he noted. (Bong S. Sarmiento / MindaNews)