Basilan leaders want 2022 BARMM regional polls postponed

Basilan leaders want 2022 BARMM regional polls postponed
Bangsamoro Chief Minister Ahod Ebrahim and elected officials in Basilan led by Gov. Jim Salliman met Wednesday, March 17, 2021, in Cotabato City.
Philstar.com / John Unson

COTABATO CITY, Philippines — Elected leaders in Basilan expressed favor Tuesday for the deferment to 2025 of the first ever 2022 elections in the infant Bangsamoro region.

Led by Basilan Gov. Jim Salliman, the local executives from the island province also assured key officials of the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao of their support to efforts by the BARMM leadership to put in place governance facets needed to hasten the attainment of lasting peace and sustainable development in the region.

The political leaders from Basilan met with BARMM Chief Minister Ahod Ebrahim and Muhaguer Iqbal and Abdulrauf Macacua, regional ministers for education and natural resources, respectively, on Wednesday at the Bangsamoro regional capitol in Cotabato City.

Salliman said they planned the meeting to enable them to relay to Ebrahim their support for the extension until 2025 of the term of the 80-member Bangsamoro Transition, or BTA, supposedly valid only until next year.

“We’re in a peace process. We all need time to put in place all the mechanisms of this young BARMM government for it to become a very functional facet for building lasting peace and progress in the region,” Salliman said.

Salliman said he and his constituent-mayors are worried of seeing the gains of the peace process between Malacañang and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front getting ruined with not having enough time for full transition from the defunct 29 Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao to the now 26-month BARMM.

The Sangguniang Panglalawigan of Basilan under Vice Gov. Yusop Alano passed on March 4 a resolution manifesting support for the bid for a three-year extension of the tenure of the BTA.

The creation of BARMM via a plebiscite in January 2019 was premised on two peace compacts between the national government and the MILF --- the 2012 Framework Agreement on Bangsamoro and, subsequently, the 2014 Comprehensive Agreement on Bangsamoro.

The two agreements were reached during 22 years of peace talks between Malacañang and the MILF, whose chairman is Ebrahim, now an appointed regional chief minister.

The dialogue between Ebrahim and the local executives from Basilan was cordial, punctuated with talks about the fragile peace now in the island province, a former bastion of the Abu Sayyaf terror group.

BARMM officials and their constituent-leaders from Basilan also shared each other’s optimism on the postponement of the 2022 Bangsamoro regional polls via an act of Congress during their two-hour engagement at the BARMM capitol in Cotabato City.

Various peace advocacy groups, political and religious leaders, among them Gov. Nancy Catamco of North Cotabato in Administrative Region 12 and the top leader of the Catholic community in Mindanao, Cardinal Orlando Quevedo, have earlier called on the House of Representatives and the Senate to reset to 2025 BARMM’s 2022 pioneering electoral exercise.

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