Senator Tolentino asks colleagues support for bill on extending BTA term

COTABATO CITY - Senator Francis Tolentino asked his colleagues in the Senate to support the bill seeking to postpone the first regular elections in the Bangsamoro region from 2022 to 2025.
“I ask my colleagues in this august chamber to support this measure extending the term of the BTA (Bangsamoro Transition Authority), not the personalities involved, but the institution,” he said. 

Senator Tolentino, chair of the committee on local government, presented the committee report of Senate Bill No. 2214 to the plenary for deliberations.

“The committee attempted to craft a bill in the hopes of addressing all legal and political issues in a manner that is most fitting and consistent to the intent of the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro and Bangsamoro Organic Law, and always with the welfare of the Bangsamoro people,” he said.

He emphasized that the extension of the transition period “does not in any way condone even the slightest bit less inefficiency in public service,” noting that public servants must continue in building confidence and patriotic hope, particularly to those residing in the Bangsamoro region. 

According to Senator Tolentino, the local government committee sees the necessity to extend the BARMM transition term to implement the political and normalization efforts embodied in the CAB.

“This piece of legislation is a testament to our continued efforts to maintain peace and push for inclusive growth in the BARMM region. This is elusive, but it is attainable,” he said.

The global pandemic the country is facing, Senator Tolentino said, has posed significant challenges on the accomplishment of the BTA’s priority programs and projects, as it has for the national government as a whole.

“COVID-19 contributed to the delay, among others, in the execution of the plans of the Bangsamoro government. Responding to the impact of COVID-19 has been a challenge in the BTA and all government leaders,” he added.

Senator Tolentino enumerated the BTA’s accomplishments highlighting the passage of some priority codes and interim government’s response to COVID-19.

Fulfilling its mandate, the BTA successfully enacted some priority legislative measures such as Bangsamoro Administrative Code, Bangsamoro Civil Service Code, and Bangsamoro Education Code.

Meanwhile, despite the challenges posed by COVID-19, the Bangsamoro government allocated P155-million to the local government units all over the Bangsamoro region. It also constructed COVID-19 isolation centers and provided P15-million assistance to Cotabato Regional Medical Center and Amai Pakpak Center for the improvement of testing facilities.

The Bangsamoro government also allotted P500-million for the purchase of the COVID-19 vaccines. 

“Although the BTA has considerably delivered some of its mandates, under the BOL, there is so much work yet to be done,” he added.

The committee is also receiving “overwhelming support” from both government and non-government organizations on extending the term of the transition period until 2025, according to Senator Tolentino.

Local government units that backed the transition extension include the provincial Government of Lanao del Sur, Sangguniang Panlalawigan of the provinces of Maguindanao and Tawi-Tawi, Maguindanao municipalities, BARMM league of municipalities of Philippines Basilan Chapter, Lanao del Sur Chapter, Tawi-Tawi Chapter, province of Cotabato, the Office of the Provincial Governor of Cotabato and the sultanates. 

The Alliance of Magnanimous Youth Leaders Inc., Basilan Women Initiative Foundation, Bangsamoro Leadership and Management Institute, Civil Society Organizations Movement for Moral Governance, Federation of the Bangsamoro Civil Society Organizations Inc., Federation of Agrarian Reform Communities in Basilan Province, Kalilintad Peacebuilding Institute Inc., Active Youth Leaders, Mindanao Indigenous People’s Initiative for Research and Assistance Center among other non-government initiatives, also called for the extension. 

“Ngayong araw ay napakahalaga hindi lamang ng BARMM kundi para sa kasaysayan... we hope that this will be acted appropriately by this body,” the senator said as he ended his sponsorship speech on Thursday