Coincident caravans dotted Metro Manila and Mindanao Wednesday seeking the extension of the Bangsamoro Transition Authority.
Dubbed Caravan for Unity and Peace, the participants, who passed by the House of Representatives and the Senate premises, called on President Rodrigo Duterte to certify the bill extending the transition period to 2025 as urgent.
In Buluan, Maguindanao, residents from the province, Cotabato and Lanao del Sur converged and called for the extension of the BTA to three more years, urging leaders to unite and give peace a chance.
Conveners of the Civil Society Organizations-Movement for Moral Governance said the number of vehicles, cargo trucks and motorcycles reached 19,760 before noon.
In their statement in Manila, the participants said the transition period extension would not only be beneficial to the Bangsamoro Government but largely to the National Government.
“When extended, the National Government will be able to implement its commitments as reflected in the Peace Agreement it signed with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front, specifically those commitments under the normalization track of the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro,” the statement said.
According to the participants, records would show “a very minimal output in the implementation of these commitments due to many uncontrollable situations just like the COVID-19 pandemic.
“This is alarming since the first three years of the transition period is about to end in less than a year now. The desperation of some on the realization of these commitments, especially to those benefiting from the gains of peace, are looking forward to the national government’s actions as a signal towards changing their lives as they expected positive results.”
“Very little time is left for the national government to implement its mammoth commitments. No amount of catch-up plans can be initiated in less than a year’s time now due to other equally pressing issues such as the pandemic and the upcoming 2022 general elections. And the only logical and proper way for the national government to salvage the Peace Process and put things in proper perspective is to extend the transition period which would end up in a win-win situation both for the government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front.”
In Maguindanao, Dr. Rahib Kundto, president of the United Youth for Peace and Development one of the conveners, said some of the participants were advocates for genuine autonomy from the Cotabato, South Cotabato and Sarangani.
Senate Bill 2214, the proposed measure extending BTA is sponsored by Senator Francis Tolentino as chairman of the Senate Committee on Local Government. It would have been up for plenary deliberations were it not for the differing positions of the Moro leaders, sources said.
Maguindanao Rep. Esmael Mangudadatu has sponsored the House counterpart bill seeking the BTA extension.
On June 15, Moro leaders failed to reach consensus at a meeting leaders of Congress hosted by President Rodrigo Duterte in Malacañang.
Again, the President who was described by Senator Juan Miguel Zubiri as being “largely neutral” during that meeting, told the Moro leaders to settle differences among themselves on the issue and return to Malacanang for a second and final round of meeting to iron out their differences.
The term of the BTA, as the interim governing body of the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao, has been fixed by Republic Act 11054, the Bangsamoro Organic Law enacted in 2019.
The CSO-MMG said parallel movement of people in Tawi-Tawi and Basilan, also called on government to extend the BTA which would also mean postponement of BARMM elections.
Sulu Gov. Abdu Sakur Tan, who was present during the June 15 meeting reportedly argued on right of suffrage to oppose the extension.
On which Tolentino explained that BARMM residents would not be denied their right to vote, even of BARMM elections were postponed, because polling would be held simultaneously for the national and local elections in May 2022.