What awaits Marawi, Bangsamoro region?
KORONADAL CITY, South Cotabato, Philippines — Although some Moro leaders welcomed President Rodrigo Duterte’s marching order for Task Force Bangon Marawi (TFBM) to hasten the rebuilding of the war-torn capital of Lanao del Sur province, Moro groups expressed dismay over the president’s failure to mention the proposed extension of the Bangsamoro transition and the Marawi compensation bill during his State of the Nation Address (SONA) on Monday.
In his sixth and final SONA, Duterte cited the signing of Republic Act No. 11054, or the Bangsamoro Organic Law (BOL), as one of his administration’s key milestones. But he was silent over the clamor by different groups to extend the life of the Bangsamoro Transition Authority (BTA).
Aside from the BTA extension, which Moro leaders consider as critical to the success of the Bangsamoro transition, the Marawi compensation bill has also been long awaited by displaced residents yearning to return to the city four years after the end of the 2017 siege by Islamic State-linked militants.
“He failed big time in correcting the historical injustices committed against the Bangsamoro people,” said Drieza Lininding, chair of the Moro Consensus Group. “Instead, he added greater injustice to the Bangsamoro people.”
Lininding said the president’s commitments had not been delivered.
“Napako yung pangako (His promises remained unfulfilled),” he said.
Zia Alonto Adiong, a member of the BTA Parliament, said that while he was glad that the president ordered TFBM to finish Marawi’s rehabilitation process as soon as possible, he would have wanted to hear the president ask Congress to prioritize the compensation bill.
“This is on top of our call,” he said. “I would have wanted to hear him ask Congress to prioritize the allocation of a special fund dedicated to the rehabilitation efforts so that we wouldn’t be facing delays in the future,” Adiong said.
“We’re disappointed that the President did not mention the extension of the (Bangsamoro) transition period as a priority bill. [But] we will not stop appealing to him and lobbying before Congress to pass a law extending the transition period in the Bangsamoro region,” said Samsodin Amella, coconvenor of the Civil Society Organizations Movement for Moral Governance.
In December last year, three lawmakers filed separate bills to postpone the first Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM) elections from 2022 to 2025. In effect, this would extend the term of the interim BTA until 2025.
These are House Bill No. 8117 filed by Maguindanao Rep. Esmael Mangudadatu, House Bill No. 8116 by Deputy Speaker and Antique Rep. Loren Legarda, and House Bill No. 8161 by Majority Leader Martin Romualdez. These bills have yet to hurdle the committee level.
“I was hoping also for a policy statement on the BARMM, if he is in favor of extending the BARMM transition or not. I sincerely hope the President can communicate his position to Congress about this issue, so we may proceed with dispatch on the legislative side,” said Deputy Speaker and Basilan Rep. Mujiv Hataman.
Anak Mindanao Rep. Amihilda Sangcopan agreed.
“The absence of it, however, for me, signifies that the President is leaving it up to Congress to decide the fate of the extension of the transition period. As legislators, it is incumbent upon us that we first exhaust all means to understand the need for the extension before we pass judgment,” she said.
The Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro (CAB), the peace agreement signed by the government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), provides that during the transition period, the BARMM will be governed by the BTA, an 80-member body composed of 41 members nominated by the MILF and 39 nominated by the government.
If the transition period is not extended, the mandate of the MILF-led BTA will end on June 30 next year, when the first set of elected officials take their oaths of office.
Duterte earlier promised support for the extension of the transition period but a month before the Sona, he left the matter in the hands of Congress.
In March, at least one million signatures were submitted to Malacañang petitioning the President to certify the bills extending the transition period in the Bangsamoro region as priority legislation.
The CAB also provides for the decommissioning of MILF fighters and their weapons. Officials from both sides admitted the deactivation process had been delayed by the COVID-19 pandemic, and that extending the transition period would give the government enough time to fully implement it.
—WITH REPORTS FROM EDWIN FERNANDEZ, TAHER SOLAIMAN AND JULIE M. AURELIO INQ
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