Questions on bill resetting BARMM polls to 2025 raised
Members of the Moro National Liberation Front questioned certain provisions of Senate Bill 2214 in rallies Thursday in different areas in Mindanao.
Philstar.com/John Unson

Questions on bill resetting BARMM polls to 2025 raised

John Unson (Philstar.com) - May 27, 2021 - 1:06pm

COTABATO CITY, Philippines — The Moro National Liberation Front urged the Senate Thursday to fix what is for southerners “loopholes” in its Bill 2214, meant to reset to 2025 the 2022 Bangsamoro regional elections.

The measure can strip the MNLF of representation in BARMM’s parliament if approved without review, according to peace activists helping the national government and Moro communities push the Mindanao peace process forward.

The MNLF presently has 11 representatives in the interim Bangsamoro parliament.

The parliament is led by Regional Chief Minister Ahod Ebrahim, chairman of the central committee of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front.

The MILF and the MNLF both asked for the deferment of next year’s Bangsamoro electoral exercise to 2025 to enable the regional government to pursue its peace and development initiatives, stifled by the COVID-19 pandemic and lack of time for a full transition from the defunct Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao to the still 26-month Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao.

Members of the most politically active MNLF bloc, the one led by former Cotabato City Mayor Muslimin Sema, told reporters Thursday they were dismayed with how the bill, a requisite for the postponement of the 2022 regional elections, allocated slots for representatives to the regional parliament.

The bill proposes an increase to 47 of MILF representatives to the 80-member parliament, where the front only has 41 members, comprising a majority, in the present parliament.

“In short five members, possibly those representing the MNLF, or other sectors have to go,” Sema said.

The present 80-seat parliament only has 41 MILF representatives, with 39 others from the MNLF and different sectors in BARMM’s five component provinces.

“We are hoping that one of the proponents of this Bill 2214, Senator Francis Tolentino, can still initiate an immediate review of its contents. We in the MNLF have converged with the MILF, with Malacañang and member-states of the OIC (Organization of Islamic Cooperation) in putting a diplomatic closure, via the BARMM, to the nagging Mindanao Moro problem,” Sema said Thursday.

The OIC, a group of more than 50 Muslim states, including petroleum exporting countries in the Middle East and North Africa, brokered the September 2, 1996 peace agreement between the government and the MNLF.

Malaysia, also a member of the OIC, was a special facilitator in the peace talks between the government and the MILF that resulted in the crafting by both sides of two compacts --- the 2012 Framework Agreement on Bangsamoro and the 2014 Comprehensive Agreement on Bangsamoro --- that paved the way for the setting up of BARMM.

The OIC had, in recent years, issued several strongly-worded resolutions urging Moro communities and the Philippine government to peacefully resolve the Southern Philippine secessionist strife.

The MNLF group under Sema has fused ranks with the MILF in addressing the problem.

“That was for us a very bold step towards the resolution of the now six-decade Moro issue,” Sema said.

MNLF members staged indignation rallies Thursday in Tuburan town in Basilan, in Patikul, Sulu, in Masiu, Lanao del Sur, in Kabacan, North Cotabato, in Bongao, Tawi-Tawi and in other areas in Mindanao to manifest their sentiments over Senate Bill 2214.

A popular peace advocate, Cotabato City Councilor Bruce Dela Cruz Matabalao, also questioned, via Facebook, why Sultan Kudarat province was mentioned in Senate Bill 2214, as if a component-province of BARMM, despite its being in Administrative Region 12.

The BARMM is only composed of Maguindanao and Lanao del Sur, both in mainland Mindanao, and the island provinces of Basilan, Sulu and Tawi-Tawi.

The autonomous region, existing under a congressional charter, the Republic Act 11054, also known as the Bangsamoro Organic Law, also covers Lamitan City in Basilan, Marawi City in Lanao del Sur, and Cotabato City, which is located inside Maguindanao.

Local officials and barangay leaders in Lamitan City that has 103,000 residents have also been ranting on why the Senate Bill 2214 has no mention of allowing them to have even just one representative to the BARMM parliament.

Marawi City has one seat in the BARMM parliament as stated in Senate Bill 2214.

Lamitan City Mayor Rose Furigay urged Senator Tolentino Monday to allow them to have one representative to the BARMM parliament.

The now third-termer Furigay said she and her constituents were saddened with how the Senate Bill 2214 denied Lamitan City of representation in the regional parliament.

The Senate Bill 2214 allocated one slot each in the BARMM parliament for the cities of Marawi and Cotabato.

“We voted in favor of the charter of BARMM, the Bangsamoro Organic Law, when it was subjected to a referendum in 2019. Now it seems we will not have a voice in the regional parliament,” Furigay said in a statement. 

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