Elections for officials of the proposed Bangsamoro Region should be postponed to 2019 for better transition, according to soldiers-turned-lawmakers.
Congressmen Ashley Acedillo and Gary Alejano, both from Magdalo party-list, pitched their suggestion to the House of Representatives’ Ad Hoc Committee on the Bangsamoro, which is yet to approve a committee report on a measure that seeks to create a Bangsamoro Region, replacing the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao.
Congress is expected to pass the measure by March so that President Benigno Aquino 3rd can sign it into law in the same month.
Ninety days after the proposal is signed into law, a plebiscite will be conducted in the affected areas to determine territorial coverage of the new Bangsamoro Region.
After the plebiscite that the Aquino administration wants to be held in 2016 when elections will pick the country’s new leader, the Bangsamoro Transition Authority (BTA) will then prepare the Bangsamoro Region for the elections whose winners will form the Bangsamoro government.
But such timeline is just too tight to be realistic as far as Acedillo and Alejano are concerned, considering contentious issues in the proposed Bangsamoro Basic Law and possible resistance from critics of the BBL.
We expect challenges [to]the measure before the Supreme Court once it is enacted into law. If a TRO (Temporary Restraining Order) is used, the plebiscite will be affected. Then, there’s the Moro National Liberation Front, Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters, Abu Sayaff Group that we have to deal with,” Alejano, a former Marine captain, pointed out, referring to Muslim rebel groups operating in southern Philippines.
The proposed BBL gives extensive, exclusive and concurrent powers to the Bangsamoro government while the central government’s power is limited to defense and external security; foreign policy; coinage and monetary policy; postal service; citizenship and naturalization; immigration; customs and tariff; common market and global trade; and intellectual property rights
“Considering these, the BTA would need more than a year to prepare for the transition so we are thinking of moving it [elections for the Bangsamoro government]to 2019,” Alejano argued.
Acedillo then cited the case of the Northern Ireland peace process between Ireland and the United Kingdom that took eight years before it was implemented smoothly.
“We don’t have illusions that peace will be immediately there. We are hopeful, but we know it will take some time,” the former Air Force combat pilot said.
Alejano and Antipolo City (Rizal) Rep. Romeo Acop are confident that Congress would be able to pass the measure according to the timeline set by Malacañang.
“We can get it to the plenary by mid-February because there is no alternative to peace,” Acop, a retired police brigadier general, said.
He added that the chairman of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), Mohaqher] Iqbal, had told him the he submits to the wisdom of Congress on the passage of the measure.
The MILF and the government signed the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro last year.