MNLF asks Senate to fix bill resetting BARMM polls to 2025May 27, 2021
COTABATO CITY, Philippines — The Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) has urged the Senate to fix the “loopholes” on a bill resetting the Bangsamoro regional elections from 2022 to 2025.
Senate Bill 2214 seeks to reset the first regular elections of the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region for Muslim Mindanao (BARMM).
Several peace activists warned the measure once approved could affect the number of MNLF representatives in the Bangsamoro Parliament. At present, MNLF has 11 representatives.
Both the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) and MNLF both asked the national government to defer next year’s Bangsamoro elections.
The deferment could 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 (ARMM) to the 26-month-old BARMM.
Cotabato City Mayor Muslimin Sema, leader of the most politically active MNLF bloc, said it dismayed them on how the bill allocates the interim parliament members.
The president, according to Section 2 of the bill, shall appoint the 80 new interim members of the Bangsamoro Transition Authority (BTA), the interim government. It allocates 47 seats for the MILF.
The present 80-seat parliament has 41 MILF representatives, with 39 others from the MNLF and different sectors from five component provinces and cities.
The increase of MILF representation, Sema said, may affect the number of MNLF seats.
“In short, five members, possibly those representing the MNLF, or other sectors have to go,” Sema lamented.
Sema hopes that Senator Francis Tolentino, one of the authors, can ‘Initiate an immediate review.” Senators Tolentino, Aquilino Pimentel III, and Richard Gordon authored the bill.
“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 the 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, served as a special facilitator in the peace talks between the government and the MILF. The peace talks had resulted to the crafting by both sides of two compacts — the 2012 Framework Agreement on Bangsamoro and the 2014 Comprehensive Agreement on Bangsamoro — paving the way for the setting up of BARMM.
The OIC had, in recent years, issued several resolutions urging Moro communities and the Philippine government to peacefully resolve the Southern Philippine Moro problem.
Merged with MLIF
The MNLF group under Sema has merged 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,” he 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.
Why Sultan Kudarat
Peace advocate and Cotabato City Councilor Bruce Dela Cruz Matabalao in his post on Facebook questioned why the bill has mentioned Sultan Kudarat province. Sultan Kudarat administratively belongs to Region 12.
Section 2 (b) of the bill allocated four members of the parliament coming from the six BARMM local government units (LGUs). These LGUs include Basilan, Lanao del Sur, Maguindanao, Sultan Kudarat, Tawi-tawi, and Sulu.
The provinces of Maguindanao and Lanao del Sur, both in mainland Mindanao; and the island provinces of Basilan, Sulu and Tawi-Tawi comprised BARMM. The Bangsamoro region also covers Lamitan City in Basilan, Marawi City in Lanao del Sur, and Cotabato City.
Republic Act 11054 or the Bangsamoro Organic Law (BOL) created BARMM replacing the now-defunct ARMM.
PHOTO: Contributed photo