Bangsamoro Parliament enacts electoral code

Map of the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao in relation to Mindanao. BARMM comprises the provinces of Maguindanao del Norte, Maguindanao del Sur and Lanao del Sur in the mainland and the island provinces of Basilan, Sulu and Tawi-tawi, the cities of Marawi, Lamitan and Cotabato and 63 villages in six North Cotabato towns that voted for inclusion in the BARMM in February 2019. Map courtesy of the BARMM website.

GENERAL SANTOS CITY (MindaNews / 09 March) — The Bangsamoro Transition Authority (BTA) or the Bangsamoro Parliament enacted late Wednesday night Bangsamoro Autonomy Act No. 35 or the landmark Bangsamoro Electoral Code (BEC), the fourth of the six priority codes passed by the transition government since the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM) was established in January 2019.

After 12 hours of plenary deliberations, presiding chair Deputy Speaker Omar Yasser Sema banged the gavel at 11:58 p.m. to officially announce the passage of BTA Bill No. 29, which the Government of the Day promised to approve in the first quarter of 2023.

The Government of the Day refers to the majority party, which is represented by the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF).

Bangsamoro Interim Chief Minister Ahod “Al Haj Murad” Ebrahim, concurrent MILF chair, earlier promised to President Ferdinand Marcos, Jr. the parliament will pass the BEC by the first quarter of 2023.

The measure was approved with 64 affirmative votes, zero negative vote and zero abstention.

Certified as an urgent bill by Ebrahim, it was approved on second and final reading on the same day by the parliament. He and BTA Speaker Pangalian Balindong led the ceremonial signing of the electoral code.

In a report from the BTA’s media bureau, Ebrahim said that the Members of Parliament made a commitment to establish a government deserving of the name “Bangsamoro” when they took the oath of moral governance at the beginning of the transition period.

He said that they also made a commitment to enact an electoral code “that would help pave the way for more democratic elections in the region, in which genuinely moral political parties would be able to participate.”

“The Bangsamoro electoral code’s adoption today is a major step towards realizing such a promise,” Ebrahim said.

Balindong said the passage of the measure “is an opportune time for us to set a new stage for our future leaders to lead our people by exemplifying honesty, equality, and empowering the true voice of democracy.”

The Bangsamoro Parliament retained the controversial provision requiring a regional political party to have 10,000 members as a requirement for accreditation.

In January, an independent panel urged the Bangsamoro parliament to ease the membership requirement for political party accreditation.

“The 10,000-member requirement is a very high standard that is prohibitive and discriminatory as it limits the registration of political parties and the right to participate in the election of party representatives to moneyed organizations or to those backed by rich political clans,” the paper, furnished to MindaNews, said.

The panel is composed of representatives from the Institute for Autonomy and Governance (IAG), the Mindanao State University System and the Local Government Development Institute.

To date, the Bangsamoro Parliament has passed the administrative, civil service, education and electoral codes. The other priority measures are the local governance and revenue codes.

For the draft electoral code, the parliament conducted 12 public consultations in Manila, Basilan, Sulu, Tawi-Tawi, Maguindanao, Lanao del Sur, Cotabato City, and the BARMM Special Geographic Area.

In accordance with the BOL and the approved electoral code, a Bangsamoro Electoral Office (BEO) will be established by and under the direct control and supervision of the Commission on Elections (COMELEC).

The BEO will supervise all national, regional, and local elections, plebiscites, initiatives, referenda, and recall proceedings within the Bangsamoro region to ensure compliance with election laws and other pertinent rules of the COMELEC.

Under the electoral code, the Parliament must be composed of 80 members – with 50% party representatives, 40% district representatives, and 10% sectoral representatives.

A member of the Parliament must be at least 25 years old on election day, be able to read and write, and be a registered voter in the Bangsamoro region.

Election watchdog Legal Network for Truthful Elections (LENTE) on Thursday congratulated the BTA for enacting the BEC.

Since 2020, LENTE in its various roles and capacities, assisted and participated in the development of the BEC.

LENTE has employed a multi-stakeholder approach and conducted consultations and focused group discussions with various government agencies, election law experts, civil society organizations and the BTA Parliament. The organization provided policy recommendations and significant technical work to the BEC up to its passage.

“We are grateful for the opportunities you have given, allowing us

to conduct various consultations in the region,” LENTE said in a statement.

“We highly value the collaboration and LENTE remains committed to work with all stakeholders, especially in the BARMM, to continuously lobby for pending legislations, such as the BARMM Regional Political Party Subsidy Fund, and Redistricting, and capacitate the Bangsamoro people in preparation for the first Parliamentary Elections in 2025,” it added. (Bong S. Sarmiento / MindaNews)