MANILA — The House Committee on Suffrage and Electoral Reforms has begun consideration of bills rescheduling the 2022 Bangsamoro regional elections to 2025.
The bills being considered include House Bills (HB) No. 8116, 8117, 8161, 8222 and 8277, which seek to amend Section 13, Article XVI of Republic Act No. 11054, the Organic Law for the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM), to reset regional elections scheduled on the second Monday of May 2022.
National elections are set on the same month.
The authors are Deputy Speakers Loren Legarda and Isidro Ungab, Maguindanao Rep. Esmael Mangudadatu, Lanao del Norte Rep. Mohamad Khalid Dimaporo, and House Majority Leader Ferdinand Martin Romualdez.
In his sponsorship speech, Mangudadatu cited the COVID-19 pandemic in seeking the postponement of the regional elections.
“The implementation of the peace agreements was on track. But then, some things are simply out of our control, just like the advent of the COVID-19 pandemic that suddenly slowed down almost to a halt the grinding of the mill since March 2020 or barely 14 months since the ratification of the Bangsamoro Organic Act,” said Mangudadatu.
The lawmaker also noted that the political track of the peace process has “overall positive development,” citing the independent third party monitoring team for the talks. The development, he said, was “significant given the pandemic and its impact to the BARMM-Bangsamoro Transition Authority (BTA).
NOT ENOUGH TIME
Mangudadatu said that even Presidential Peace Adviser Secretary Carlito Galvez believes that 3 years would not be enough for a full transition in the region due to the pandemic.
“The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic has confronted the BARMM-BTA with a double challenge in dealing with a health emergency and the transition at the same time… Thus, the transition must be extended for a longer period,” he pointed out.
The time for implementing the agreement will also be short, according to the lawmaker.
“Kahit pa madaliin at pilitin ng national government at ng MILF-led BTA na mag-deliver sa mga napagkasunduan, the remaining 16 months before the May 2022 elections or 9 months before the October 2021 filing of candidacy is not enough for both sides to deliver on the remaining 60 to 65 percent tasks in the political track alone,” he explained.
(Even if the national government and the MILF-led BTA rushes delivering the agreements, the remaining months.... will not be enough.)
Aside from this, he said that there will be a “huge task left” regarding the decommissioning of combatants, camp transformation, and the dismantling of private armed groups.
Mangudadatu also denied that postponing the election would be a curtailment of the right to suffrage, noting that the Special Committee on Peace, Reconciliation and Unity, within the purview of its jurisdiction, has conducted a series of briefings on the status of the implementation of the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro (CAB) and RA No. 11054.
“As a matter of fact, there are 12 laws that have been passed by the Congress of the Philippines since 1989 that postponed supposedly scheduled elections in the area pre-ARMM and during the time of the now defunct ARMM,” he said.
In his own sponsorship speech, Committee on Muslim Affairs Chairman Ansarrudin Adiong said that he is “confident” that the election postponement would “bring about lasting peace and sustainable development for the BARMM and Mindanao thus raising the quality of life not only of Muslims, but all Filipinos.”
Deputy Speaker Isidro Ungab, sponsoring HB 8277, meanwhile said that the election postponement would be necessary amid the pandemic.
“The BTA pointed out its need for more time,” said Ungab.
Dimaporo, on the other hand, requested BARMM Chief Minister Murad Ebrahim and Minister Mohagher Iqbal to join the next hearing.
The panel will also set another hearing for the bills.
The Duterte administration, through peace adviser Galvez, already backed the rescheduling of the region’s elections but Congress has to pass a law to reschedule elections.