President Rody Duterte with BARMM Interim Chief Minister Ahod Ebrahim and Senator Bong Go. (File)

Duterte to push for BARMM poll-deferring bill passage?

COTABATO CITY (June 23, 2021)- Hopes for the passage of the bill postponing the 2022 Bangsamoro parliament polls and giving three more transitional years for the regional government remain bright, an official privy to the matter revealed. The official, who wanted to be unnamed yet, said President Duterte was inclined to call for special sessions by the 18th Congress purposely to pass the harmonized bill of the Senate and House versions.

He was interviewed over the phone by the Philippine Muslim Today news on Tuesday night, the eve of announced conduct of a civil society groups’ follow-up motorcade or caravan around the highways linking Maguindanao, Sultan Kudarat and North Cotabato to press anew for a Presidential certification of the bill.

The official said he received an invitation for his attendance in another Palace meeting with the President, adding the meeting would center on the debate over the call for 2022 regional parliament election and extension of the interim autonomous government.

The PMT also received information early Tuesday that the five governors in the Bangsamoro region were called for a meeting in the Palace that day.

The Tuesday meet, if it’s true, could be a prelude to the June 24, which Senator Juan Miguel “Migz” Zubiri said, set by the President for the Senate and House leaderships, the Bangsamoro regional executives and the governors in the region.

Senator Zubiri has expressed hope that the June 24 meeting may reach a “consensus” among the invited officials.

In published report, he disclosed that the same invited officials met the President on June 16, during which those supporting and opposing the election postponement presented again their respective positions and arguments on the issue.

The regional officials led by Chief Minister Ebrahim reiterated having not delivered yet their mandates due to the late appointment of the Bangsamoro Transitional Authority (BTA) and other circumstances aggravated by the advent of the COVID-19 pandemic that restrained social movements even in public offices, Zubiri said.

The local governments of Lanao Sur, Basilan and Tawi-Tawi backed the postponement, while those of Sulu as well Cotabato City “kept insisting on the need to the right of suffrage in the region which was acknowledged as well by the President,” he added.
At the June 16 meeting, he said, the President was “largely neutral” in the absence of consensus among the officials, and asked the same meeting attendees to come back on June 24.

Zubiri highlighted the argument of Senator Francis Tolentino, author of the Senate bill, who pointed out that holding the polls as scheduled “may be difficult as there has been no passage of an electoral code for the region defining the positions and new districts at stake in the parliamentary set up provided for by the Organic Act which I authored.”

“It is the BTA (that) should pass this Electoral Code. So according to Sen. Tolentino, that would take time to pass and 100 days till the filing of candidacies in October would be too short a time to do so, hence the extension of the existing setup,” Zubiri explained.

He agreed that the absence of a (Bangsamoro) election code would mean the Commission of Elections “would have no positions to elect for the region as the positions created by the ARMM have been abolished upon the ratification of the Bangsamoro Organic Law.” (AGM)