In photo- House Majority Leader Ferdinand Martin Romualdez meets with Bangsamoro officials led by Chief Ahod Balawag Ebrahim on December 9, 2020 in the House of Representatives in Quezon City. Romualdze filed HIB 8161, the third bill filed at the House seeking the extension of the Bangsamoro transition by resetting the date of the first Bangsamoro election to 2025. Photo courtesy of the Bangsamoro Gov’t

House Majority Leader files 3rd bill to extend Bangsamoro transition period

DAVAO CITY (MindaNews/ 10 December) –  House Majority Leader Ferdinand Martin Romualdez on Monday filed House Bill 8161 seeking an extension of the transition period in the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM) by moving the first regular election for the Bangsamoro government from May 9, 2022 to May 12, 2025.

Romualdez’ bill is the third filed in the House on the transition extension. On December 1, Antique lone district Rep. Loren Legarda filed HB 8116 while Maguindanao 2nd district Rep. Esmael “Toto” Mangudadatu filed 8117.

The Legarda and Mangudadatu bills were filed on December 1 and their first reading was on December 7.  The first reading of the Romualdez bill was on December 9.
The three bills are pending at the Committee on Suffrage and Electoral Reforms as of December 10.

From December 14, there are only 42 session days (Mondays to Wednesdays) until Congress adjourns sine die on June 4, 2021:  three remaining sessions in December, 30 from January 18 to March 26, and nine from May 17 to June 4.

No counterpart bill has been filed in the Senate as of December 10.

Bangsamoro Chief Minister Ahod Balawag Ebrahim, Education Minister Mohagher Iqbal, Executve Secretary Abdulraof Abdul Macacua and Local Governments Minister Naguib Sinarimbo met with the leadership of the House of Representatives in separate  meetings with Speaker Lord Allan Velasco, Majority Leader Romualdez,  House Minority Leader Joseph Stephen Paduano last Wedneday, December 9.

“The leaders of the House assured us of their support for the extension of the transition in the Bangsamoro,” Sinarimbo wrote on his Facebook account on Wednesday, to accompany the photos of the meetings he posted.

“Ample time”

The Romualdez bill, like the Legarda and Mangudadatu bills, seeks to amend Section 13  of Article 16 of  Republic Act, to “postpone the conduct of its first elections form 2022 to 2025.”

In his explanatory note, Romualdez three three-year extension will allow the Bangsamoro government “to focus on the needs of the Bangsamoro people and ensure the continued growth and development of their region” and to give “ample time time for a full and more efficient transition of the BARMM and the effective implemntaation of the program sna operations of the Bangsamoro Transition Authority.”

The BTA is the 80-member body appointed by President Rodrigo Duterte to govern the BARMM during the three year transition period that that is supposed to end on June 30, 2020.

The interim Bangsamoro Parliament passed Resolution 93 on November 17, urging the House of Representatives and the Senate to extend the transition period until June 30, 2025 to give the transition government “sufficient time to continue in performing its powers and functions and fulfill its mandate.”

On November 23, President Rodrigo Duterte and key Cabinet officers met in Davao City with Bangsamoro interim Chief Minister Ahod Balawag Ebrahim and his delegation to discuss the proposed extension of the transition period.

On November 26, Presidential Peace Adviser Carlito Galvez told the House Special Committee on Peace, Reconciliation and Unity chaired by Mangudadatu that President Duterte “believes that three years is too short and he agrees for the possible extension of the BTA up to five to six years.”

Galvez told the House Committee that they are aware of the difficulties of the BARMM government in laying the ground for the foundation of the regional government.
He said the political and normalization tracks laid down under RA 11054, the enabling law of the peace agreement, have been affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.
The normalization track  which includes decommissioning of the combatants of the Bangsamoro Islamic Armed Forces, the armed wing of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front, has also been affected.

“The movement of the peace workers as well as international peace partners have been restricted” and “funds have been reduced since some of the resources were utilized for emergency purposes,” Galvez said.

 “If we want the transition to be successful, we need to give our Bangsamoro brothers and sisters ample time to lay the foundation. And realistically, we cannot achieve this in three years,” he said.