Manila Bulletin : Senate OKs postponement of BARMM polls to 2025 on 2nd reading

25 August 2021

By Vanne Elaine Terrazola | Manila Bulletin

The Senate approved on second reading Wednesday, August 25, the bill seeking to postpone the May, 2022 election in the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM).

Senate Bill No. 2214 seeks to amend the Bangsamoro Organic Law (BOL) and move the elections in the BARMM from May, 2022 to 2025.

The measure also states that “upon the expiration of the incumbent members of the Bangsamoro Transition Authority (BTA), the President shall appoint 80 members of the BTA who shall serve up to June 30, 2025, or until their successors have been elected.”

The representation provided in the BOL would still be followed, senators agreed.

Not all senators, however, were convinced that next year’s Bangsamoro polls should be deferred, with Senator Panfilo Lacson registering his “no” vote, and Senators Imee Marcos and Ralph Recto saying they abstain on the approval of the bill.

During the plenary deliberations, Senator Francis Tolentino, sponsor of the bill, maintained the need to move the BARMM’s first regular election, citing the absence of an electoral code to govern the proceedings. He also appealed for the extension of the region’s transition supposedly derailed by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Tolentino also opposed Marcos’ proposal to defer the election only until December, 2023, arguing that previous Supreme Court rulings have stated that elections in the region, formerly called Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao (ARMM), must be synchronized with the national and local elections.

“We might jeopardize even the normalization process, the peace process, and all the mandates given to the Bangsamoro Transition Authority,” the chairperson of the Senate local government committee said.

For his part, Lacson, among several concerns, also said that the people of the BARMM should be consulted on the proposed suspension of their election.

“Since they ratified, as part of the BOL, the elections to be held May of next year, then isn’t it proper that they should also be consulted by way of a plebiscite if we are going to postpone the election?…Wouldn’t be unconstitutional if we don’t consult in the plebiscite the people who ratified [it]?” Lacson said in his interpellation on Tuesday, August 24.

While members of his Cabinet supported the postponement of the BARMM elections, President Duterte kept a “neutral” position and let Congress decide on matter.

But on Wednesday, Senate Majority Leader Juan Miguel Zubiri said he was informed that Duterte is expected to certify the bill as urgent.