In photo- Ms. Samira Gutoc, Head of Marawi Rescue Team

BTA conducts series of consultations on protection of IDP’s in BARMM

COTABATO CITY — Public consultations were held simultaneously in Marawi City and Cotabato City, marking a significant step towards protecting the rights of internally displaced persons (IDPs) or “bakwit” in the Bangsamoro Region. 
The consultations conducted were aimed at providing a platform for IDPs, community leaders, and other stakeholders to express their opinions, concerns, and suggestions regarding the proposed proposal. 

The Bangsamoro Parliament sought to personally interact with affected individuals and listen to their sentiments, ensuring that their voices are heard in the legislative process. 

The proposed bill, known as BTA Bill No. 32 or the Rights of Internally Displaced Persons of the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region Act, was introduced by the Government of the Day and recognized as one of the cabinet legislative agenda of BARMM Chief Minister Ahod Balawag Ebrahim, Al Haj. 

Ebrahim is also the Chairman of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) and President of the United Bangsamoro Justice Party (UBJP), the political party of the MILF. It not only seeks to protect Bangsamoro residents displaced to areas outside the BARMM but also addresses the rights of non-Bangsamoro residents displaced to areas within the region. 

The number of IDPs in BARMM has increased dramatically over the past few years, according to the Ministry of Social Services and Development (MSSD). During the consultations, the MSSD presented alarming figures, showing the dire need for measures to protect IDPs.

Since 2013, an estimated 159,289 individuals have been displaced in Mindanao, mainly due to armed conflict, natural disasters, crime or violence, and clan feuds or “rido”. In 2022 alone, 58,915 and 68,911 individuals were displaced within the BARMM due to natural disasters and armed conflict, respectively. 

Recognizing the urgent need to address the plight of IDPs, the proposed measure seeks to establish a comprehensive framework for their protection, rights, and welfare. It aims to address the many challenges faced by IDPs, including their physical safety, access to basic needs, health care, education, and livelihood opportunities.

 In Lanao del Sur, Presiding Officer Atty. Anna Tarhata Basman, BTA Member of Parliament told the attendees that all the insights gathered during the consultations will be thoroughly discussed by the Committee on Social Services and Development. 

He emphasized the importance of carefully considering the inputs provided by stakeholders. As an IDP, Samira Gutoc, head of the Marawi Rescue Team, said the proposed law includes provisions that will foster an environment conducive to protecting victims of violence and the economy. 

Meanwhile, in Cotabato City, other Members of Parliament held a separate public consultation to gather comments from stakeholders in Maguindanao and the BARMM Special Geographic Area. 
Atty. Raisa Jajurie presented some important provisions of the bill. This includes ensuring access to basic needs, rights to health and education, freedom of movement in and out of evacuation centers and settlements, recognition and exchange of documents, and security and protection for IDPs. 

She emphasized the importance of this bill in providing immediate aid and humanitarian assistance to IDPs, their families, and communities. The Bangsamoro Government, together with its ministries, agencies, offices, and LGUs, will play an important role in implementing the mandate of the proposed law. 

Although there is currently no national law in the Philippines that specifically addresses the rights of IDPs, he emphasized the importance of regional efforts in establishing mechanisms and sustainable solutions. 

Consultations in both cities allowed the Bangsamoro Parliament to engage with a wide range of perspectives and consider the diverse needs and challenges faced by IDPs across the region. 

Another round of public consultations is scheduled to be held in the provinces of Basilan, Sulu, and Tawi-Tawi in the coming weeks.

Atty. Jajurie said that the committee's target is the presentation of the committee report in July and that the committee plans to submit the committee report in the month of July as well.