Senate Majority Leader Zubiri, Tolentino vow to pass bill extending BARMM elections to 2025

Sultan Kudarat, Maguindanao– The Senate Committee on Local Government on Friday ended its hearings on the two bills seeking the extension of the transition period in the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM) until June 30, 2025 instead of 2022, with Majority Leader Senator Juan Miguel Zubiri vowing that he and committee chair Francis Tolentino and other members “will make this happen,” a Mindanews report said Sunday.

According to the report, the Committee deliberated Senate Bill 2019 filed by Senator Aquilino Pimenel III and SB 2025 filed by Senator Richard Gordon – both seeking to amend Section 13 of Article 16 of RA 11054 or the Organic Law for the BARMM, by resetting the date of the first election from May 2022 to May 2025.

Once the bill is passed by Congress, it will give three more years to the Bangsamoro Transition Authority (BTA) to finish its work. 

Senator Zubiri expressed confidence during the hearing livestreamed from the Senate’s website, that the consolidated bill would be passed on second and third reading within one day, apparently confident President Rodrigo Duterte would certify the bill as urgent, the Mindanews report said.

Congress will adjourn sine die on June 4 and resume sessions on July 26 when the President delivers his sixth and last State of the Nation Address, leaving only the 27th and 28th as session days for the rest of July, said the report.

Meanwhile, in the House of Representatives, the joint committees on Suffrage and Electoral Reforms, Muslim Affairs, and Peace, Reconciliation and Unity had earlier deliberated on five bills on the proposed extension: House Bills 8116 by Antique Rep. Loren Legarda, 8117 by Maguindanao Rep. Esmael Mangudadatu, 8161 by House Majority Leader and Leyte Rep. Ferdinand Martin Romualdez, All the bills are for May 2025.

In his explanatory note, Pimentel said the COVID-19 pandemic “significantly affected” the BTA’s efforts, timetable to pass legislation and building of the BARMM’s institutions.

Pimentel said there is a “need to give the BTA and the National Government more time to completely build the BARMM and deliver each other’s commitments in relation to the peace agreement.”

Senator Gordon on the other hand said the pandemic affected government services as priorities shifted to the more compelling need to address the socio-economic crisis.. “This added a different dimension complicating the statutory timeline for the creation of a functional Bangsamoro Government,” he said.

Postponement, he said, will allow the current Bangsamoro government to “focus on providing the basic needs of its people that would help them survive the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, at the same time … allow them sufficient opportunity to establish a formidable BARMM governmental structure and robust policies that will be vital in effectively serving the Bangsamoro people.”