By Ali G. Macabalang
KIDAPAWAN CITY – The House of Representatives has passed on second reading its bill extending the lifespan of the Bangsamoro Transition Authority (BTA) to 2025, bolstering prospects for the interim autonomous governance to accomplish mandates in building a regional parliament and transforming secessionist combatants into peaceful and productive citizens.
Maguindanao 2nd District Rep. Esmael “Toto” Mangudadatu, who delivered the sponsorship speech in first plenary session, rejoiced with two thumbs-up as acting presiding House Deputy Speaker Deogracias Victor “DV” Savellano banged the gavel Monday night, Sept. 13, in unanimous approval of HB 10121 sans dissenting or abstention vote.
But the bill’s initial approval did not come easy for Mangudadatu, who faced grilling for almost an hour from Deputy Speaker and Basilan lone Rep. Mujiv Hataman in the period of interpellation. The duo debated on the process of appointing fresh BTA members and a timeline in the decommissioning of combatants of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF).
The debate, once interrupted by a brief suspension in session, ended with Mangudadatu saying the MILF and state panels implementing the 2014 Comprehensive Agreement on Bangsamoro (CAB) and R.A.11054 would complete the decommissioning process on or before 2025, and that the term of the present BTA members will end on June 30, 2022 but President Duterte may replace them before bowing out of office such date.
Mangdudatu, through his legislative staff, said he would “immediately call for the scheduling” of the deliberation on the bill’s third and final hearing, noting that Congress is left with 21 session days before the filing of candidacies on October 1-8 this year of the May 9, 2022 synchronized local and national elections.
HB 10121 is the House version of Senate Bill 2214, which the higher chamber approved on third and final reading on September 6 to postpone the 2022 Bangsamoro Parliament election and extend the BTA lifespan to 2025. Fifteen senators voted for the bill, three cast dissenting votes and one abstained.
According to Philippine Muslim Today (PMT) news sources, an eventual final approval of the HB 10121 will entail a bicameral conference if it contains provisions contrasting the Senate version. But so far, both versions are similar that may not warrant such a conference, they said.
SB 2214, authored by Senator Francis Tolentino, substituted two bills earlier filed by Senators Dick Gordon and Koko Pimentel. HB 10121 harmonized five bills filed by Mangudadatu, Deputy Speaker Loren Legarda and Isidro Ungab, Majority Leader Martin Romualdez and Lanao del Norte Rep. Khalid Dimaporo.
Monday’s House decision followed last ditch multi-sector pleas for a Presidential push via urgent certification of a bill extending the BTA lifespan to 2025 by resetting the 2022 Parliament election in the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM). The 80-seat BTA is BARMM’s interim ruling body, composed of members appointed by President Duterte for a term ending on June 30, 2022.
In a post Tuesday, Rep. Mangudadatu exclaimed: “Praise be to Allah, Praise be to Allah!”
“Thank you very much, President Duterte, Speaker Velasco, Majority Floor Leader Romualdez, and to all my fellow representatives in the joint committee and in the plenary for listening and supporting our aspiration for the Muslim Mindanao Region,” he said.
“And to my fellow Moros, I am with you celebrating another successful chapter in our journey. Let’s just keep praying to Allah so that we can finally achieve our goal for a more progressive, stable, and peaceful Bangsamoro,” he added.
In his sponsorship speech, Mangudadatu prodded his fellow lawmakers to help sustain the gains accruing from the government’s major peace with the MILF – the 2013 Framework Agreement of the Bangsamoro (FAB) and the 2014 CAB – that have been legally translated under R.A. 11054 enacted in July 2018 for the creation of BARMM.
He urged his colleagues to respond to “our Bangsamoro brethren’s…. quest for self-determination,” citing the untold massive socio-economic displacement, loss of at least 120,000 lives, and aggravated poverty and injustices accruing from decades of armed struggles by the MILF and the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF).
The MNLF and MILF have abandoned struggle for independence through the separate peace accords with the state that gave birth to autonomy in the Bangsamoro region lived up now by BARMM in replacement of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM).
In the passage of the SB 2214 on Sept. 6, Senators Tolentino and Juan Miguel “Migz” Zubiri urged BARMM officials to ensure prompt accomplishment of their mandates under R.A. 11054 or Banmgsamoro Organic Law (BOL) and dispense services with utmost transparency and accountability.
Like House leaders, Tolentino and Zubiri said it would be awkward for incumbent BARMM officials to falter and seek another transition extension after 2025.
Rep. Mangudadato and Deputy Hataman haso likewise asserted for the BARMM governance’s attainment of self-determination status, which the regional leaders and constituents would be charting their own routes to more stable peace and equitable growth.
They said there should be “no room” for higher authorities to call BARMM “another failed autonomy or experiment.”
Meanwhile, the offices of BARMM Chief Minister Ahod “Hadji Murad” Ebrahi, Senior Minister Abdulraof “Sammy Hambar” Macacua, and Local Government Naguib Sinarimbo as well as the BTA Parliament led by Speaker Pangalian Balindong expressed elation on Tuesday over the House bill passage, hoping the final approval will happen the soonest possible. (AGM)