Senate OKs bill postponing 2022 BARMM polls

Published September 6, 2021, 6:36 PM

by Vanne Elaine Terrazola

The Senate passed on third and final reading Monday, September 6, the bill that would reset the first parliamentary elections in the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM) from May, 2022 to May, 2025.

Senate of the Philippines’ plenary hall (Senate PRIB)

A total of 15 senators voted for the passage of Senate Bill No. 2214, while Senators Ralph Recto, Panfilo “Ping” Lacson and Emmanuel “Manny” Pacquiao voted against the approval.

Sen. Imee Marcos, meanwhile, abstained.

In explaining his vote, Lacson maintained that the people of the BARMM must have a say in postponing their elections. He stressed that the Bangsamoro Organic Law (bol, which set the region’s first election in 2022, was ratified by the people.

“It is my belief that postponing the election should also be in accordance with the mandate of the people of the BARMM, which should be decided in plebiscite,” Lacson said during their plenary session.

Marcos, for her part, said she was not convinced that the postponement of the BARMM polls for three years would achieve the purpose of the BOL. She wanted the elections deferred only until December, 2023.

“Postponement may be in flagrant violation of the Organic Law,” Marcos said, also citing the Constitution.

But Senator Francis Tolentino, sponsor of the bill, said postponing the election will “give us a chance to continue working towards attaining peace in the region and fully realizing the promises of the CAB (Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro).”

“Adding three more years to the transition period is nothing compared to the four decades of violent conflict and almost two decades of grueling negotiations between the Government of the Philippines and the MILF (Moro Islamic Liberation Front),” Tolentino told his colleagues, citing the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic to the region’s transition.

He also maintained that the measure does not trivialize the right to suffrage of the Bangsamoro people.

“But they should be transparent about the disbursement of public funds and they should finish the Electoral Code this 2022 to ensure the orderly conduct of elections come 2025,” Tolentino said, assuring his colleagues.

The bill also states that upon the expiration of the terms of the incumbent members of the Bangsamoro Transition Authority (BTA), the President shall appoint 80 new members of BTA who will serve up to June 30, 2025.

In the House of Representatives, a committee report that consolidated proposals to extend the BARMM elections has been approved at the committee level.