Lower House ratifies bicameral report on postponement of BARMM elections

The House of Representatives on Tuesday, Sept. 21 ratified the bicameral committee report on the legislative proposal to reset the election of the /Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao from 2022 to 2025.

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The chamber unanimously voted on the report on the disagreeing versions of the bill approved on final reading by the Senate and the Lower House.

House Bill 10121 was approved by the Lower House on final reading last week with 187 affirmative and zero negative votes.

Final reading passage came a day after President Rodrigo Duterte certified the bill an urgent administration measure.

Senate’s version of the bill was approved on Sept. 6.

Passage of the measure was strongly endorsed by the House Committees on Suffrage and Electoral Reforms, on Muslim Affairs and on Peace, Reconciliation and Unity.

HB 10121 will reset the May, 2022 BARMM elections to May, 2025. It proposes to amend Republic ACt 11054, otherwise known as the Organic Law for the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao.

The approved bill consolidated five different legislative measures filed by Majority Leader and Leyte 1st District Rep. Ferdinand Martin Romualdez; Deputy Speaker and Antique Rep Loren Legarda and Reps. Isidro Ungab (3rd District, Davao City); Khalid Dimaporo (1st District, Lanao del Norte) and Esmael Mangudadatu (2nd District, Maguindanao).

Incumbent officials of the Bangsamoro Transition Authority headed by Chief Minister Murad Ebrahim will continue to occupy their posts unless terminated by the president before the 2025 elections.

The president will have the sole authority and discretion to determine the term of office of the 80 BTA members.

Authors of the measure said the bill allows the national government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front “to lay better and sturdier foundation and successfully translate he efforts on the gains fromt he peace agreement into lasting and sustainable peace not only in Mindanao but for the whole country.” HB 10121 will move the BARMM first BARMM polls to coincide with the 2022 national elections be moved to 2025 national elections.

In pushing for the approval of the bill, Romualdez cited the need for the Bangsamoro people “to ensure the continued growth and development of their region.” “This will also give ample time for a full and more efficient transition of the BARMM and the effective implementation of programs and operations of the BTA,” the House official said.

On the other hand, Ungab explained that he sought the postponement of next year’s election because of the continued threat to public health of the deadly 2019 coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic.

“Further, the BARMM transitional government, Bangsamoro Transition Authority led by Bangsamoro Interim Chief Minister Murad Ebrahim, also pointed out that the BTA need for more time to build bureaucracy, pass foundational codes and help former MILF combatants improve their quality of life,” said Ungab.

The Davao City lawmaker said many aspects of the transition has been “undeniably delayed” by the pandemic.

For his part, Dimaporo stated that the bill intends to ensure the “fulfillment of the Annex on Normalization under the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro and the Framework Agreement on Bangsamoro for the Reintegration of the MILF Combatants to mainstream society.”