Bills extending Bangsamoro transition period to be tackled in January 2021

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, December 15) — The House of Representatives will start deliberating on bills to extend the term of Bangsamoro Transition Authority officials in January next year.

At least three bills have been filed in the House seeking to extend the BTA’s term. House Special Committee on Peace, Reconciliation, and Unity Chairman Esmael Mangudadatu on Monday said the bills have been referred to his panel, as well as the House Committees on Suffrage and Electoral Reforms, and Muslim Affairs.

The first regular elections for the Bangsamoro Parliament is slated for May 2022, in line with the national and local elections in the Philippines. Should the BTA extension bills become a law, the first regular elections in the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM) will be moved from 2022 to 2025.

“This humble representation sincerely agrees with President Duterte, Secretary Galvez, and the BARMM that the BTA needs a term extension. It is very unlikely that they can put everything in place in a very short span of three years," Mangudadatu said in a hearing.

President Rodrigo Duterte has agreed to the plea of the BTA to extend the region's transition period to 2025 while the country is battling the COVID-19 crisis, his Cabinet officials previously said.

Mangudadatu said BARMM Chief Minister Ahod “Al Haj Murad” Ebrahim expressed support for extending the terms of BTA officials in a recent meeting with House Speaker Lord Allan Jay Velasco and other officials.

The lawmaker urged his colleagues to support the extension of the transition period for BARMM.

"The achievement of the aspirations of peace, unity, genuine autonomy and development in the BARMM region is also the achievement of the whole nation,” he said.

The Bangsamoro Organic Law that was ratified in 2019 abolished the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao and replaced it with the BARMM, a new autonomous political entity with more power, including its own parliament. The creation of the BARMM has raised hopes that the Bangsamoro will have a chance at genuine self-governance that it has been fighting for for decades.

The BTA recently adopted Resolution 332 urging the House and Senate to extend the transition period to give them more time to put in place the normalization and peace-keeping process.