Heed President’s lead on Bangsamoro transition, peace group tells lawmakers
ILIGAN CITY –– The peace group Mindanao Peoples Caucus (MPC) has called on the country’s lawmakers to follow President Duterte’s lead on the question of extending by another three years the Bangsamoro transition.
Lawyer Mary Ann Arnado, MPC secretary-general, said in a statement they welcomed the President’s endorsement of the proposal to extend the Bangsamoro’s transition process up to mid-2025.
Earlier, Presidential Adviser on Peace, Reconciliation and Unity Carlito Galvez said the President had asked him about the matter and had endorsed the proposal.
Galvez said Duterte saw the need for extending the transition period to give enough time for post-conflict measures to be carried out in the autonomous region.
“This is a whiff of fresh air for Mindanao peace,” the MPC statement said.
The group added that the President’s “reassurance and strong support for the proposal is a fitting kickoff (on Nov. 26) to the observance of the Mindanao week of peace.”
MPC appealed to the House of Representatives and the Senate “to give this legislative agenda utmost consideration and support.”
“The BARMM (Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao) is a legacy of the first Mindanaoan president,” the group said, referring to President Duterte. “It is to our shared interest that this legacy will truly succeed for the sake of peace and unity in Mindanao and the entire country.”
Already, Antique Rep. Loren Legarda and Maguindanao Rep. Esmael Mangudadatu have filed bills seeking to postpone the elections in the BARMM to 2025.
MPC was among the Mindanao support groups, who helped push for the political settlement between the government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) to end four decades of war in central Mindanao.
Two months ago, the group also did an independent midterm review of the Bangsamoro transition, looking into the gains as well as the gaps that needed troubleshooting.
The review covered the political and normalization tracks. While the political track relates to the establishment and functioning of the Bangsamoro government, the normalization track covers the implementation of security-related agreements between the government and the MILF, like the decommissioning of combatants and their firearms.
Under the Bangsamoro Organic Law (BOL), the appointive Bangsamoro Transition Authority (BTA) shall serve as the interim government of the BARMM.
The rapid review found, among others, that legislative work in the interim parliament had been hampered by the restrictive health protocols during the pandemic.
BOL mandates the BTA to enact various codes dealing with revenue, governmental administration, elections, civil service, and indigenous peoples during the transition period.
It is also tasked with the determination of parliamentary districts, the establishment of the regular government architecture, and the institutionalization of a policy on personnel hiring and placement.
The MPC review found that while 30 percent of the MILF’s 40,000 regular fighters had already been decommissioned as part of the normalization track, the promised assistance package, like housing had not yet been delivered.
Bangsamoro Education Minister Mohagher Iqbal, who also chairs the MILF’s peace implementing panel, said other normalization-related measures, such as transitional justice, disbandment of private armed groups, amnesty and pardon, and the organization of the region’s police force, were still in the works.
In an online forum on Nov. 26, lawyer Laisa Alamia, minority leader of the Bangsamoro parliament, said she would file a legislative proposal that would embody some transitional justice measures.
A key recommendation of the review team is for Congress to extend by another three years the Bangsamoro transition period.
“The rapid review has determined a crucial need for time,” Arnado told the Inquirer.
According to the MPC, to effect the transition extension, there is a need to amend Section 13, Article XVI of the BOL, which provides for the schedule of the first regular election in the BARMM.
The phrase “2022 national elections” will have to be changed to “2025 midterm elections,” the MPC’s statement said.
“The (required) amendment to the BOL will only be surgical with no need to submit to plebiscite for ratification,” it added.
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