THE Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) will not be abolished and the Commission on Elections (Comelec) will have to hold polls in the region next year if Congress fails to pass the Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) on June 11, an official of the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process (OPAPP) said.
Undersecretary Jose Lorena explained that if the BBL bill is not approved in time for the filling of certificates of candidacy (COCs) on October 12 to 16 this year, the Comelec will have no choice but to call for the filing of COCs for the ARMM elections.
Lorena made the clarification in response to the queries of Sen. Paolo Benigno Aquino 4th about the possible scenarios in case the passage of the BBL is delayed during the hearing held by the Senate local government committee.
The BBL will create the Bangsamoro region that will replace ARMM.
“First, we go by the law. If there would be no BBL by the time of the filing of the COCs, the Comelec is mandated to call for the filing of the certificate of the candidacy for the ARMM. Therefore, there would be an election for the ARMM,” the OPAPP official explained.
Miriam Coronel-Ferrer, head of the government peace panel, said since the filing of COCs for the 2016 national and local elections will be opened to all positions, it will also include the positions in ARMM if there is no BBL.
“That is why we are working on a best scenario which is June, which will allow the Comelec enough time to prepare for the plebiscite hopefully by October,” Ferrer explained.
The BBL plebiscite will be conducted on the envisioned core territory of the Bangsamoro. If the proposed BBL law is passed on time, elections for the new Bangsamoro government will be held in 2016.
Ferrer however said adjustments can be made as far as the filing of COCs is concerned should the BBL be passed in July or August.
She added that it is also possible to hold the Bangsamoro election on a different date but this will shorten the term of the elected officials because there will be synchronized elections in 2019.
Sen. Ferdinand Marcos Jr., the chairman of the Senate local government committee tasked to deliberate on the BBL, maintained that he will not allow his committee to be pressured into passing the proposed Bangsamoro law.
According to him, there is no justification for Malacanang’s call on Congress to approve the Bangsamoro bill before the legislature adjourns on June 11.
In fact, he said, the executive branch should stop talking about deadlines and allow Congress to perform its legislative duties.
“We need the time to do it properly. So I think it is time to stop talking about deadlines, it is time to stop talking about rushing the legislative process on something so complicated, so complex, so noble and so important,” he added.
Marcos cited the hearing of the panel on Monday wherein his committee learned that the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF), the first Moro group to sign a peace agreement with the Philippine government, was not consulted in the process that culminated in the drafting of the BBL.
The MNLF, Marcos said, raised concerns about the apparent bias for MILF in the formation of the Bangsamoro Transition Authority and eventually the organization of the Bangsamoro government.
Marcos said the committee will conduct two more hearings for the sultanates and the indigenous people (IP) of Mindanao and for local executives in areas within or near the core territories of Bangsamoro before they can sit down to prepare the committee report on BBL.