Palace says Duterte neutral on extension of Bangsamoro gov't

Alexis Romero - Philstar.com
Palace says Duterte neutral on extension of Bangsamoro gov't
This file photo shows the executive building of the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao.
via The STAR / John Unson

MANILA, Philippines — President Rodrigo Duterte is neutral to the proposal to extend the transition period for the Bangsamoro government and is leaving it up to Congress to decide on the matter, Malacañang said Monday.

The Bagsamoro Transition Authority (BTA), the interim government of the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM), is led by the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), which inked a peace agreement with the government in 2014. Under the Bangsamoro Organic Law signed by Duterte in 2018, the BTA will perform its role in the BARMM until officials who won in the 2022 elections assume office.

There have been calls to extend the term of the BTA until 2025, saying the Bangsamoros need more time to establish their government. Duterte's peace adviser Carlito Galvez Jr. is among those who support the proposal, saying the three-year transition period is not enough to meet the BTA's goals.

BARMM officials met with Duterte last Thursday to discuss the matter.

"Ang naging desisyon po ni presidente matapos niyang pulungin nang dalawang pagkakataon ang kabilang panig ay neutral po ang ating presidente (After meeting with the two sides in two occasions, the decision of the president is he will be neutral)," presidential spokesman Harry Roque said at a press briefing.

"He (Duterte) is leaving it up to Congress to make a decision on whether they will pass a law extending the transition period for the Bangsamoro Transition Authority," he added.

Roque said groups in favor of the extension pointed out that the BARMM has yet to pass an election code yet and redistricting laws. Those who are in favor of the holding of an election in 2022 have cited the need for political leaders to have a mandate so they would have a moral authority to lead, he added.

"Ang sabi kasi ni presidente eh talaga namang may punto ang parehong panig (The president said both sides have valid points)," Roque said.

"So within the Cabinet itself, two different opinions were expressed and I think that was also one reason why the president said he would adopt a neutral stance. He is asking Congress to consider all sides and he has asked Congress to exercise its wisdom to determine whether the transition should be extended," he added.
BARMM chief minister Ahod “Al-haj Murad” Ebrahim said the transition period should be extended because the three-year period is a very short time to restructure the Bangsamoro government. He said the BTA also had to deal with the COVID-19 pandemic instead of focusing on its tasks of setting up a government and normalizing the situation in the region.

"There was a delay in the budget of the BARMM, in the autonomous government. In 2019, we did not have a budget when we assumed. We only used the remaining budget of the ARMM (Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao). But we were not able to use everything... so we only had a budget in 2020. Just three months after 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic started," Ebrahim added.

Sulu Governor Abdusakur Tan said he opposes an extension because under the law, the term of the BTA should only be three years.

"We just want officials to have a mandate because we are saying even to the President that it would be very awkward for the BARMM officials to be governing without any mandate and maybe requesting us or ordering us to assist them," Tan said.

"Unlike in BARMM officials, the positions are elective positions so the officials must also be elected. Our concern is what will happen after this administration?... If they say that you do not have a mandate then it would affect all of us in the BARMM," he added.

Tan said he remains supportive of an MILF-led BARMM government but insisted that the position of the region's officials should be strengthened through a mandate.

"Anyway, we will support them (MILF) if there is an election...If that is postponed, I (would) challenge it before the Supreme Court because I want the leadership of our BARMM officials to be stronger," the governor added.

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