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Calls to extend Bangsamoro transition period snowball in Mindanao

Retired Cotabato archbishop among supporters

KORONADAL CITY—Calls to extend the transition period of the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM) for three more years after 2021 are snowballing among local government and religious leaders in Mindanao.

Cardinal Orlando Quevedo, archbishop emeritus of Cotabato, has issued a statement “urgently and formally endorsing the petitions” to extend the Bangsamoro Transition Authority (BTA), whose mandate will expire on June 30 next year. The BTA would not be able to complete its mandate, he said.

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“The reasons are indisputable,” Quevedo said. “The Covid-19 pandemic has made it impossible for the BTA to have regular face-to-face sessions. Security issues posed by radical armed groups prevent freedom of travel.”

He said the fledging region still had to resolve several issues, including the status of private sectarian education, decommissioning process of Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) combatants, setting up of the Office of Settler Communities, and the delineation of ancestral domain of indigenous peoples (IP).

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Quevedo cited the need to create structural and legal assurance of equality and nondiscrimination of minority groups within the Bangsamoro, especially on hiring and assignment of positions.

He said the transition period could not possibly establish “a new political culture within the Bangsamoro that would be ruled by the principle of transparency, accountability and efficiency—which is the professed intent of the Bangsamoro leadership.”

“[The] election in 2022 [of Bangsamoro officials] would simply erode whatever fragile gains the BTA shall have obtained,” the prelate said.

Pandemic factor

Cotabato Gov. Nancy Catamco also called for the BTA’s term extension, raising concern over the welfare of the people in 63 villages in the province which have chosen to join the BARMM.

She agreed that the pandemic had drastically hampered the transition efforts. “COVID-19 was not yet in our vocabulary” when the peace deal was signed and the Bangsamoro Organic Law (BOL) took effect, she said.

“Nobody wants the Mindanao peace process to fail,” said Catamco, the first governor from an IP community in Cotabato.

Earlier, Lanao del Sur Gov. Mamintal Adiong Jr. and local leaders in his province and at least nine towns in Maguindanao endorsed moves to extend the BARMM transition period.

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“We would like to assure the Bangsamoro government that we are one with you in aspiring for self-determination and moral governance,” Adiong said in a statement.

Too short

The BARMM, which turned two years old last week, expanded the autonomous region created in 2019 following the ratification of Republic Act No. 11054, or BOL, which was anchored on the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro (CAB) forged between the government and the MILF after 17 years of peace negotiations.

Bangsamoro interim Chief Minister Ahod Ebrahim said the transition period was too short to implement all the provisions of CAB, including the normalization track involving the return of MILF members to the social mainstream.

He asked President Rodrigo Duterte, who has favored the extension of the transition, to prod Congress to act on it.

Last November, the BTA passed a resolution urging Congress to extend the Bangsamoro transition to 2025. At least five bills supporting the BTA appeal have been filed by Deputy Speakers Loren Legarda and Isidro Ungab, House Majority Leader Ferdinand Martin Romualdez, Maguindanao Rep. Esmael Mangudadatu and Lanao del Norte Rep. Mohamad Khalid Dimaporo. INQ

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TAGS: BARMM, Cardinal Orlando Quevedo, MILF
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