Voting 18-1 with two abstentions, the Senate approved on second reading the bill that seeks to postpone next year’s parliamentary elections in the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM) and extend the transition period in the region until 2025.
Senate Bill 2214 seeks to amend Republic Act No. 11054 or the Bangsamoro Organic Law (BOL) by postponing the next year’s polls in the region and extend until 2025, the Bangsamoro Transition Authority (BTA).
The BTA currently serves as the interim BARMM parliament in compliance with the Republic Act No. 11054 or the Bangsamoro Organic Law (BOL).
Senator Francis N. Tolentino, chair of the Senate Committee on Local Government and the principal sponsor of SB 2214, welcomed its approval. He said it will ensure the swift implementation of the political and normalization tracks which were agreed during the peace talks between the national government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF)—under the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro (CAB).
Explaining why he cannot accept the amendment of Senator Imee Marcos to postpone the first regular elections of BARMM to a period of one year, he stressed this is unconstitutional.
He cited Supreme Court decisions, including the case Osmena vs. Comelec where the Supreme Court equivocally stated that the Constitution has mandated synchronized, national and local elections.
“If we postpone the BARMM elections for less than three years, it would run counter with several Supreme Court decisions, it would run counter with the constitutional command that local and national elections should be synchronized.,” explained Tolentino.
“And we might jeopardize even the normalization process, the peace process, and all the mandates given to the Bangsamoro Transitional Authority, Mr. President,” he added.
Senate President Pro-Tempore Ralph Recto sought clarification whether Senate Bill No. 2214, which seeks to synchronize the first Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM) regular elections with the 2025 national elections, was an urgent bill. Recto, who abstained from voting on the measure on 2nd reading Wednesday, August 25, 2021, also wanted to know if the legislation was one of the priority measures of the Legislative Executive Development Advisory Council (LEDAC).
Senate Majority Leader Juan Miguel “Migz” F. Zubiri informed Recto that all the cabinet members were requesting for the passage of the bill to maintain peace and order in the area. Zubiri said the priority certification for SBN 2214 is forthcoming.
Based on the latest assessment made by the COMELEC, it cannot enforce the conduct of the regional polls in BARMM since the redistricting of the parliamentary districts and the passage of its regional electoral code have yet to be finished by the BTA.
COMELEC Resolution No. 10713 which was unanimously approved by COMELEC en banc last August 11 stressed that “the allocation of elective positions for the BARMM parliamentary elections cannot yet be determined at this point due to the unavailability of the Bangsamoro Electoral Code,” among others.
The latest resolution from the poll body also noted the lack of apportionment of the BARMM into parliamentary districts, as well as determining the manner of conducting elections of the reserved and electoral seats and the treatment of 63 barangays in North Cotabato which were recently included in the Bangsamoro Region.
The BTA has yet to finalize its electoral code since it is currently awaiting data on the 2020 Census from the Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA) which is yet to be finished due to the COVID-19 pandemic.