Senators gather in the Senate plenary in the opening of the 18th Congress’ 2nd regular session on July 27, 2020. (Senate PRIB)

Senate OKs bill postponing BARMM polls

MANILA, Philippines — The Senate passed on second reading on Wednesday a bill seeking to postpone the first regular elections in the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM).
Senators voted 18-1 with two abstentions on Senate Bill 2214, which seeks to amend Republic Act 11054 or the Bangsamoro Organic Law by postponing the elections next year and extending the term of the Bangsamoro Transition Authority (BTA) until 2025.
The BTA currently serves as the interim BARMM parliament.

Sen. Francis Tolentino, chairman of the Senate committee on local government and principal sponsor of the measure, said the bill would ensure the swift implementation of political and normalization tracks under the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro signed by the government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front.

The Commission on Elections (Comelec) had earlier said it could not hold the regional polls in BARMM since the redistricting of parliamentary districts and the passage of its regional electoral code have yet to be finished by the BTA.

“The allocation of elective positions for the BARMM parliamentary elections cannot yet be determined at this point due to the unavailability of the Bangsamoro Electoral Code,” the Comelec said in a resolution issued on Aug. 11.

Sen. Panfilo Lacson, who voted against the measure, said the people of BARMM should be consulted on the postponement of the elections.

“Wouldn’t it be unconstitutional if we don’t consult in a plebiscite the people who ratified it?” Lacson asked during the interpellations on Tuesday.

Malacañang gave assurance that President Duterte supports proposals to extend the transition period for the Bangsamoro government but Congress should pass the needed law.