By Ali G. Macabalang
COTABATO CITY – President Rodrigo Duterte has preferred a status quo in the operations of his appointed members of Bangsamoro region’s transitional parliament, opting not to exercise discretion under R.A. 11953 to put in new faces in the interim legislature before his terms of office ends on June 30 this year.
The President approved the recommendation of his Security, Justice and Peace Cabinet Cluster (SJPCC) last March 4 to extend the office term of appointed members of the Bangsamoro Transition Authority (BTA), taking into account the essence of allowing without undue interruption the incumbents’ thrusts in completing unfinished crucial tasks.
R.A.11593, which President Duterte signed last October 28, effectively moved the first regular elections of parliament members in the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM) from 2022 to May 2025 as avidly sought by stakeholders led by Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) leaders now heeding the interim governance.
The 80-seat BTA passed Resolution No. 173 on October 12, 2021, asking President Duterte to allow its incumbent members to continue carrying out their mandate in order to preserve the gains of the interim BARMM governance, notably in legislating high-impact laws and in cabinet ministries’ delivery of projects and services unprecedented in the history of autonomy in Muslim Mindanao.
In another measure, Resolution No. 209 dated last Feb. 15, it appealed to President Duterte to consider – in an event of an option to make new appointment – to re-appoint BTA members nominated by the national government to ensure smooth transition process without the possibility of any political disruptions taking place, the BARMM’s Bangsamoro Information Office (BIO) said in a recent news release.
In opting for a status quo, the President also heeded the MILF’s call for the preservation of 41 representatives in the parliament in preservation of the spirit and intent of R.A. 11054 (Bangsamoro Organic Law) and the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro forged by the front with the government in 2014, the BIO said.
The BIO quoted the SJPCC as asserting that the “BTA has, over the past two years, played an instrumental role in uplifting the lives of the Bangsamoro people and unleashing the economic potential of the region.”
“Given these major accomplishments, its current membership must not only be given due recognition, but must also be given the chance to complete what it has started,” the national cabinet cluster stressed.
The SJPCC added: “By keeping the status quo in the BTA, we are not only building on and sustaining the gains of the Bangsamoro peace process; we are laying the foundations where genuine development and long-lasting peace can take root and flourish, and where our Moro brothers and sisters can look ahead to a better and brighter future.”
Defense Secretary Delfin N. Lorenzana, National Security Council Secretary Hermogenes C. Esperon, Jr., Interior Secretary Eduardo M. Año, and Presidential Adviser on Peace, Reconciliation and Unity (PAPRU) Secretary Carlito G. Galvez, Jr. signed the cabinet cluster’s press statement, the BIO said.
Isko policy on BARMM
Aksyon Demokratiko Presidential aspirant Fracisco “Isko Moreno” Domagoso, has earlier bared his intent to pursue, if elected in the May 9 polls, what President Duterte has initiated for the Bangsamoro region and its governance.
“I will just pursue and replicate the President’s acts and policies for the BARMM,” Manila Mayor Domagoso, popular as Isko, told reports after meeting here the regional officialdom led by Chief Minister Ahod “Hadji Murad” Ebrahim on Feb. 22.
Isko ostensibly solicited possible endorsement from the United Bangsamoro Justice Party (UBJP) in his presidential bid.
But BARMM spokesman and Local Government Minister Naguib Sinarimbo has explained that the Chief Minister as head of the UBJP has not made any commitment to Isko, though taking inspiration from the latter’s visit to open the gate of BARMM to visits by other presidential candidates to be able to learn their official agenda that will guide the regional party in making an official endorsement this month or the next.
“Definitely, the UBJP will announce its choice among the national candidates,” Sinarimbo said, hinting at preference for a next President with a “big hearty” for the Bangsamoro people.
BARMM Senior Minister Abdulraof Macacua, concurrent UBJP secretary general, had indicated in past social media posts the regional leadership’s inkling for candidates endorsed by President Duterte.
But because Administration Presidential bet Christopher “Bong” Go and Duterte’s withdrawal from the presidential and vice presidential contests, the Bangsamoro people are left with a possible choice between candidates Isko and Leni Robredo.
On Feb. 21, the UBJP launched the proclamation rally in Buluan town of its full local slate for Maguindanao led as party standard bearer by 2nd District Rep. Esmael “Toto’ Mangudadatu.
The rally mustered some 50,000 supporters, who heard Macacua, Sinarimbo, Minister Mohagher Iqbal and other UBJP officials clarifying that candidate Isko’s expected attendance in the latter part of the gathering meant no endorsement yet for him.
In his live virtual message at the rally, Chief Minister Ebrahim mentioned in local vernacular the possibility of striking commitments from Presidential candidates like Isko for the preservation of peace gains in BARMM.
Rep. Mangudadatu, who arranged Isko’s courtesy call in BARMM and campaign sorties in Bangsamoro region and nearby Sultan Kudarat, North Cotabato and South Cotabato, has been openly campaigning for the Manila mayor’s candidacy.
Before the UBJP top officials left the rally before Isko’s party arrived, the crowd chanted “we love Isko” en masse.
“I am sure he (Isko) has very big heart for Muslim Filipinos…I foresee his eventual endorsement by the UBJP,” Rep. Mangudadatu once told the Philippine Muslim Today news. The lawmaker is UBJP’s gubernatorial bet in Maguindanao. (AGM)