President Rodrigo Duterte will let Congress act on measures seeking for the extension of the transition period in the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM) until June 30, 2025, instead of 2022, Malacañang said on Monday.
Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque made this statement as more groups have asked Duterte to certify as urgent bills extending the Bangsamoro transition by another three years.
While Duterte continues to be supportive of the initiative for the transition and even if he will certify the measures as urgent, Roque said Congress would have the final say whether to extend or not the Bangsamoro transition.
“That is in progress ‘no and the important thing is that the President always repeats this, although he can certify anything as urgent, when the Congress is not really convinced, it will also be difficult,” he said in a Palace press briefing. “If there’s really no support, it would be a problem.”
Roque, however, acknowledged the importance of Duterte’s urgent certification as it would mean these bills can be passed on the third reading immediately after the second reading.
“Although of course a certification itself will be a signal that it’s important for this administration,” he added.
He emphasized the need for lawmakers to hold consultations with Bangsamoro officials and people to get a better picture of the transition extension meant to sustain the gains of the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro.
“From the very start, the President said let’s respect the right to self-determination of the people in that region. That is why senators should coordinate with the representatives of the provinces affected,” he added. Majority Leader Senator Juan Miguel Zubiri earlier said there are only three weeks from May 17 left for Congress to decide on the Bangsamoro transition extension.
The BARMM, an expanded autonomous region created upon the ratification of the Bangsamoro Organic Law (BOL) in January 2019, is the outcome of the decades-long peace negotiation between the government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF).
Currently, the BARMM is under transition.
During the transition period, the interim Bangsamoro government will identify the new structural framework of the BARMM, taking into consideration the existing structure, budget, and other relevant features of the now-defunct Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM).
The region’s BTA will run the affairs of the ARMM until the new set of regular officials are elected in 2022.
Meanwhile, Roque also clarified that Duterte is not blaming the BARMM for failing to prevent members of Islamic State-linked Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) from seizing a town's public market in Maguindanao.
“He is not blaming the BARMM. We all know that who are spreading terror there in BARMM are bandits, BIFF ‘no, splinter groups of BARMM. So it’s an expression of exasperation at the same time a warning that the state will not tolerate these acts of violence,” he said.
Last May 8, around 200 heavily-armed BIFF members seized the public market of Datu Paglas, Maguindanao.
The Army’s 6th Infantry Division was able to regain control of the Datu Paglas town market center at dawn the same day.
In a recent speech, Duterte sought the help of Bangsamoro officials to stop the violence and terror acts perpetrated by extremist groups such as in Mindanao.