By ALI G. MACABALANG
COTABATO CITY – While Congressional proceedings indicate a likely extension in the lifespan of the Bangsamoro Transition Authority (BTA), the prospect will be certain or assured if President Rodrigo Duterte pushes the enabling bill’s passage, according to stakeholders including proponent Maguindanao Rep. Esmael “Toto” Mangudadatu.
Leaders of various civil society organizations (CSOs) took turns in thanking lawmakers in the Senate and House for passing on second reading their enabling bills in the plenary and joint committee hearings, respectively, last week.
They conveyed gratitude through a manifesto presented at a press conference here on Monday, Aug. 30, which they wrapped up with a last ditch plea for President Duterte to officially and urgently push for the passage of a harmonized bill in the 18th Congress.
The Mindanao People’s Caucus (MPC), an umbrella group of several CSOs, organized the press conference in view of the fast-approaching filing of candidacies for the 2022 national and local elections. The Commission on Elections set the filing period this coming October 1-8, just a month away from press times.
In a plenary session on August 25, the senators passed on second Senate Bill 2214, which proposes the deferment of the 2022 Bangasamoro parliament election and extend the BTA lifespan to 2025.
The three-year extension will enable the BTA to make up in the delays caused principally by the COVID-19 pandemic on its perceived failure to fully accomplishment mandates under the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro (CAB) of 2014 and R.A. 11054 of 2018 such as the: Normalization and Political or Governmental Tracks.
The Normalization Track will decommission in phases the Moro Islamic Liberation Front’s (MILF’s) 40,000 members and their firearms, and transform them into peaceful and productive life; while the Political Stride is meant to build a parliament-styled autonomous government with electoral exercises on political party principles.
In the second episode of the virtual weekly “Tapatan” forum of the Bangsamoro Press Corps (BPC) on Aug. 28, Rep. Mangudadatu narrated how the five pending bills on BTA extension were harmonized and passed on second reading by the House Joint Committees on Aug. 26.
The joint committees, chaired by Reps. Marie De Leon-Ferrer of Negros Occidental, Ansaruddin “Hooky” Adiong of Lanao Sur, and Mangudadatu of Maguindanao, mustered 40 affirmative votes against three dissenting votes, cast by Lanao del Norte Rep. Kahlid Dimaporo and Sultan Kudarat Rep. Princess Mangudadatu-Sakaluran, it was learned.
In the virtual press briefing, Rep. Mangudadatu expressed confidence the harmonized bill will likely pass through the final approvals of the joint committee and the House plenary.
However, Mangudadatu, who authored one of the harmonized bills, said the passage of the measure will be faster and smoother if President Duterte officially pushes it, possibly with a certification of urgency.
Unlike in the Senate where majority of the senators are reportedly in favor of an extended BTA term, the counterpart bill was expected to undergo stiff debates in the plenary, owing to “possible political maneuvers” among more than 300 House members, Rep. Mangudadatu hinted.
The BTA Parliament adopted on Aug. 27 a resolution authored by lawyer-member Raissa Jajurie to convey gratitude to the Senate for “shepherding the process” of passing the poll-deferring bill.
Similarly, the regional leadership through spokesman and Local Government Minister Naguib Sinarimbo lauded the House joint committees’ chairs and members for the favourable action, saying the MILF’s ruling United Bangsamoro Justice Party (UBJP) also expressed “profoundest gratitude.”
“Rest assured that gratitude is an attitude in this principled party,” said Sinarimbo, who staunchly advocates reforms in regional electoral exercises from personality and money-based polling to election by party principles. (AGM)