Hundreds flocked to the streets in different cities and provinces in Mindanao on Wednesday, June 23, to call on President Rodrigo Duterte to certify a bill that would extend the office terms of Bangsamoro Transition Authority (BTA) officials up to 2025.
“BTA extension unity caravans” were held in the provinces of Maguindanao, North Cotabato, Lanao del Norte, Lanao del Sur, and the cities of Marawi, Iligan, Zamboanga, Cagayan de Oro, and Cotabato, the seat of the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM).
“We call on President Duterte to certify as urgent the bill extending the period of transition (in the BARMM),” said the region’s interior minister, Naguib Sinarimbo. “We must never lose sight of the narrative that at the core of the issue of extension of the BTA and the period of transition is the implementation of a peace agreement that we all worked so hard to achieve. It is not about the petty local politics of 2022 or of the presidential elections in 2022. This is about implementing the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro.”
The civil society group Movement for Moral Governance (MMG), which helped the region’s officials in organizing the activities, said BTA term extension supporters in at least 13,000 vehicles joined the caravans organized in many areas in Mindanao. The claim on the number of participants could not be independently verified.
But in Northern Mindanao, one caravan started in Iligan City, passed through Lanao del Norte province, all the way to Malabang town in the BARMM province of Lanao del Sur.
Close to 50 vehicles were used in a similar caravan from Marawi City to Cagayan de Oro, according to the Roads and Traffic Administration (RTA).
The RTA deployed traffic law enforcers to escort the BTA extension supporters as they went around Cagayan de Oro until they left for Iligan City.
The BTA is the BARMM’s interim regional government created after a 2019 referendum that decided the composition of the special autonomous region. It is led by Murad Ebrahim, the leader of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) who was named chief minister of the autonomous region.
The Mindanao caravans were held shortly before Ebrahim, governors and other officials of the BARMM flew to Manila for a scheduled meeting with Duterte on Thursday, June 24.
Based on the Bangsamoro Organic Law (BOL), the BTA is supposed to serve until after the BARMM holds its first regional elections in 2022.
Murad and other BTA officials, however, said their efforts were slowed down because of delays in the appointment of BTA officials and the COVID-19 pandemic, hence the call for office term extensions.
Zia Adiong, a member of the BARMM parliament, asked Duterte to certify as urgent House Bill 8277 that seeks to amend the BOL so that the BARMM transition period can be extended.
The bill, authored by Davao 3rd District Representative Isidro Ungab, seeks to reschedule the regional elections from 2022 to 2025.
United Youth for Peace and Development president Rahib Kudto said, “We believe that extending the BTA from 2022 to 2025 is indispensable. Granting BTA another 3 years will allow members of the parliament to have ample time for the passage of priority bills that are vital for the realization of moral governance in the region.”
“Three years for the BTA is too short,” added Salahudin Bin Hamza, another term extension supporter. – Rappler.com