Resetting the elections in the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao will give local leaders more time to institute reforms, according to Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana.
Lorenzana said he was also in favor of extending the term of the Bangsamoro Transition Authority until 2025 since its leaders needed more time to set up an infrastructure of good governance.
The BTA is supposed to oversee the BARMM until the May 2022 regional polls, which would be held simultaneous with the 2022 national and local elections.
Lorenzana, however, argued that not all members of the BTA had a long experience in governance.
“There are those who are starting from zero. They were not mayors, governors beforehand. Let us give them their jobs for another three years, and after that, let us hold the elections,” he added.
Sulu Governor Abdusakur Tan and Cotabato City Mayor Frances Cynthia Guiani-Sayadi opposed the extension of BTA tenure.
The ratification of the Bangsamoro Organic Law in February 2019 via a plebiscite paved the way for the creation of the BARMM and abolition of the old Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM).
The BARMM includes Cotabato City, 63 barangays in the municipalities of Aleosan, Carmen, Kabacan, Midsayap, Pigkawayan, and Pikit in North Cotabato. It has expanded land and water jurisdiction, fiscal autonomy, increased share in national government resources, among others.
A group urged lawmakers to pass the bill extending the BTA based on the provisions of the Bangsamoro Organic Law, which they said was clearly ratified by the overwhelming majority of the Bangsamoro people.
In a statement following the last State of the Nation Address (SONA) of President Rodrigo Duterte, Bangsamoro People’s Coalition for BTA Extension said extending the transitional period will show a responsive partnership of the government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front.
The group thus held a peaceful prayer rally at Tandang Sora, Quezon City to ask for divine intervention to enlighten the national leaders on the importance of this call.
“We call for the Divine Intervention to pour mercy and steadfastness and shower it upon those mindful and peace-loving people with loving hearts such as our beloved legislators for their understanding and benevolence to support our call to extend the Bangsamoro transition period by way of postponing the BARMM elections to 2025,” the group said.
Under the law, the transition period is only three years from 2019.
Deferring the elections of the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao from 2022 to 2025 “will allow the BTA to fulfill its mandated duties in achieving long-term peace and prosperity in the region.”
“We pray for the Divine Intervention to soften the hearts of those who continue to oppose our people’s noble proposal. We pray that our national leaders will finally acknowledge how imperative the extension will be in this time of health emergency where the spending priority should focus on economic recovery and containing health emergencies,” the coalition said.
“Extending the transition period outweighs the conduct of elections in BARMM. Spending on elections in times of massive cases of economic dislocations defeats the very purpose of any economic recovery efforts. There is no truthful economic growth through spending without any production output.
“Thus, elections might be rightfully held, but the situation is not only untimely but wasteful and inappropriate as well,” the Bangsamoro People’s Coalition added.
Dr. Jolly Lais, coalition spokesperson, said their call to extend the BTA aims to complete programs and projects for the Bangsamoros under the political, normalization, and transition plan which was hampered by the COVID-19 pandemic.