Duterte signs law postponing 2022 Bangsamoro polls to 2025

The seat of power in the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao in Cotabato City, 22 September 2021. MindaNews photo by GREGORIO BUENO

KORONADAL CITY (MindaNews / 29 October) — President Rodrigo Duterte on Thursday enacted into law the postponement of the 2022 parliamentary elections in the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM), effectively extending the Bangsamoro transition period for another three years to 2025.

Maguindanao 2nd District Rep. Esmael Mangudadatu, principal author of the House version seeking the postponement of the BARMM elections, lauded Friday Duterte for approving the consolidated Senate Bill 2214 and House Bill 10121.

“We would like to thank those who supported the proposal until the end…This measure is a step to ensure that the peace agreement will be implemented for the welfare of the entire Bangsamoro and the Philippines,” he said in a statement in Filipino.

Mangudadatu was referring to the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro (CAB), the final peace agreement signed by the government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) in 2014 after 17 years of negotiations.

The key component of the CAB was the creation of a Bangsamoro region, which was realized in 2019 after its enabling law, Republic Act 11054 or the Organic Law for the BARMM, was ratified in a plebiscite.

The Bangsamoro region, which replaced the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao, is governed by the MILF-led, 80-member interim Bangsamoro Transition Authority (BTA).

Under RA 11054, the mandate of the BTA is until June 30, 2022, when the new set of elected officials shall have taken their oath of office.

But with Duterte’s signing of Republic Act 11593, which postpones the  2022 Bangsamoro parliamentary elections to 2025, the BTA shall continue to serve as the interim Bangsamoro government. The elections for various local positions such as governors and mayors, will push through in 2022, however.

The President, however, may appoint the 80 new interim members of the BTA who shall serve up to June 30, 2025 or until their successors shall have been elected and qualified, according to RA 11593.

Under the reconciled version of the Senate and the House of Representatives, the 80-member BTA shall continue as the interim government in the Bangsamoro region. The President may appoint the 80 new interim members of the BTA who shall serve up to June 30, 2025 or until their successors shall have been elected and qualified.

The proposal to extend the Bangsamoro transition period was among the recommendations made by the peace advocacy group Mindanao People’s Caucus (MPC) after conducting a rapid midterm review of BTA’s performance last year.

Mary Ann Arnado, MPC secretary general, said they were happy that Duterte heeded the proposal and signed it into law.

“We are very grateful that our national leaders in Congress heeded our call for extension and we especially commend President Duterte for listening to the voices of Mindanao and the Bangsamoro,” she said.

According to her, Duterte’s action protected his “peace legacy and championed the cause of the Bangsamoro.”

Bangsamoro Interim Chief Minister Ahod Ebrahim, also the MILF chair, earlier backed the extension of the transition period, noting the need for more time to fully implement the provisions of the CAB, including the normalization process.

Under the Annex on Normalization, MILF combatants will be decommissioned along with their weapons as major milestones of the CAB are achieved. Recognized MILF camps will also be transformed into productive economic zones.

To date, the decommissioning process is set to start with the third phase involving some 14,000 MILF members. The Phase 3 involves 35 percent of the 40,000-strong MILF, which waged a decades-old war with the government in a bid for Muslim self-rule in Mindanao.

In backing the extension of the transition period, Ebrahim said that COVID-19 also disrupted the performance of the Bangsamoro government in delivering services to its constituents. (Bong S. Sarmiento / MindaNews)