ZAMBOANGA CITY – The people of Sulu is against the postponement of elections in the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM), and the extension of the elective term of the current Bangsamoro Transition Authority (BTA) officials.
This was disclosed by Sulu Governor Abdusakur Tan, who said that he informed members of the Suffrage Committee of the House of Representatives during a Zoom meeting on Wednesday, January 20, that the people of Sulu was against the postponement of the exercise to a much later date.
A similar statement was also sent by Tan to President Duterte, informing him that the people of Sulu were against the postponement of the elections in the BARMM.
The first regular election for the officials of the BARMM was set by the Bangsamoro Organic Law (BOL) or R.A. 11054, to synchronize with the May 2022 national elections.
The region is presently governed by the BTA whose officials were appointed by the President.
Five bills have been filed at the House of Representatives, calling for the postponement of the BARMM elections to 2025, and the extension of the terms of office of the BTA officials.
Tan said any postponement of the BARMM elections and the subsequent extension on the term of the BTA will only deprive the BARMM people of the “opportunity to prove, once and for all, that they can sufficiently and responsibly govern themselves.
The Sulu governor also claimed that the BTA was just using the proposed postponement as a “sorry excuse” for its failure to set up the political and legislative infrastructure of BARMM, and to effect a smooth transition.
Of the six priority legislative codes mandated by the BOL, the BTA, was able to enact only one measure, the Bangsamoro Administrative Code.
Five more legislative codes, including the BARMM election code, were still in various stages of enactment.
Tan said the BTA still has ample time — 18 months – to pass the other crucial laws, if the BTA sincerely wants the region to grow and develop.
Furthermore, he said the BTA cannot use the absence of the BARMM election code as a reason to delay the elections, as the BOL itself mandates in Section 13, Article XVI.
Another Section of the BOL provides that until the prescribed priority codes are enacted by the BTA, the ARMM Local Government Code or Muslim Mindanao Autonomy Act No. 25 and substituting laws on elections should be applied.
Tan said, of 600 personnel of various national agencies, whose items were devolved to the BARMM, only 64 have been appointed and the rest were terminated, resulting in the non-payment of salaries and anxiety among the affected personnel.
He also decried the imbalance in the release of the BARMM funds, informing the Committee that the bulk of the P 65-billion Block Grant stipulated in the BOL has already been released to the BTA.
However, he added, Sulu was able to received only a meager P5 million for the provincial government, and P 1 million each for every municipality, despite the crisis caused by the pandemic.
Tan lamented that “Sulu does not feel the presence of the BARMM”, considering that no BTA officials have ever visited Sulu and that the current pandemic was being used as an excuse by these officials.