BARMM adopts own electoral law

By Ali G. Macabalang

CEREMONIAL SIGNING. Chief Minister Ahod “Hadji Murad” Ebrahim and Speaker Pangalian Balindong shaking hands after the ceremonial signing of the code on Wednesday, Match 8. (Online culled photo)

COTABATO CITY – The Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM) now has its own electoral law, with the unanimous approval by its interim parliament of the enabling bill treated as urgent to fulfill a commitment to the national government.

Bangsamoro Transition Authority (BTA) Bill No. 29, docketed as Bangsamoro Electoral Code of 2023, was approved on the third and final reading on March 8, shortly after its passage on the second reading on the same day.

ALSO READ: BARMM approves Bangsamoro Electoral Code

The swift deliberation did away with the Parliament’s three-day interval rule, courtesy of the urgent certification of the bill by BARMM Chief Minister (CM) Ahod Balawag Ebrahim, according to the BTA Media Relations Office (MRO).

The plenary session of the 80-member BTA here was attended by 64 members, including presiding Deputy Speaker lawyer Omar Yasser Sema, who all approved the bill sans a negative or abstention vote, the MRO said.

ELECTORAL CODE APPROVED. Unanimous voting for the proposed electoral code among 64 Parliament members present. (Online culled photo)

CM Ebrahim and Parliament Speaker Pangalian Balindong eventually led the ceremonial signing of the edict, known now as Bangsamoro Autonomy Act No. 35, which would govern the structural, functional, and procedural manners of elections, referenda, and recall proceedings in the BARMM territory.

Parliament Members Paisalin “Popoy” Tago and Nabil Tan, both lawyers, said the passage of the edict partly fulfilled the BARMM leadership’s commitment to President Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr. that such would be passed in the first quarter of this year.

In his message here for the second inaugural session of BTA members on Sept. 15, 2022, the President asked the interim parliament government to enact its electoral law, local governance code, and other fundamental edicts in due time, saying he would no longer appoint BTA members.

The Chief Executive said the first regular election of 80 BARMM parliament members must be synchronized with the local; and national elections in 2025.  

Bangsamoro Autonomy Act No. 35 or the electoral code reportedly consists of articles on the Bangsamoro electoral office, regional political parties, elective Parliament positions, elections upon dissolution of the Parliament, the voters, election administration, election offenses, legal fees, transitory provisions, and other vital provisions.

The edict prescribes for genuinely principled political parties in the Bangsamoro region, discouraging the usual rule of money and popularity in usual elections.

CM Ebrahim said the edict will hopefully pave the way for more democratic regional elections, in which morally-founded political parties can participate in an even field.

Speaker Balindong said the edict ushered in “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 edict’s passage followed 12 major field consultations from October 2022 to January 2023 in Metro Manila, Sulu, Basilan, Tawi-Tawi, Maguindanao, Lanao del Sur, Cotabato City, and the BARMM Special Geographic Area (SGA) in North Cotabato for stakeholders to sound off comments and reactions, it was learned.

Some groups, including local governments critical of the regional governance, had expressed concerns about possible constitutional issues, notably in the operations and powers of the edict-prescribed Basngsamoro Election Office.

Parliament Floor Leader Sha Elijah Dumama-Alba, a lawyer, had led a ten-day deliberation, examining the provisions in the proposed code line by line, prior to the code’s approval in plenary.

Dumama-Alba led here on Thursday a press conference to entertain questions from the media on the salient features of the BARMM Electoral Code, assuring that the edict was in pursuance of existing laws and the Constitution. (AGM)


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