The Senate, voting 21-2, ratified on Monday a bicameral conference committee report endorsing a reconciled Senate-House version of an enabling legislation resetting the first regular elections in the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM).

Senators voted to approve the conference committee report submitted by the joint congressional panel that ironed out the disagreeing provisions of Senate Bill No. 2214 and House Bill No. 10121 seeking to move the date of the BARMM parliamentary and regional elections from May 2022 to May 2025 to synchronize it with the upcoming midterm elections.

Senator Francis Tolentino, Senate panel chairman in the Bicameral conference committee, reported that the reconciled version of the Senate and House versions recognized two important considerations—the constitutionally granted power of the President to appoint; and the right of the people of the Bangsamoro region to have competent and reliable leaders.

The Senator stressed that in reconciling the disagreeing provisions of SB 2214 and HB 10121, the conferees of the bicam panel assured the passage of this legislative measure “will not unduly curtail” the power of the President to appoint under the 1987 Constitution.

As approved. the reconciled version provides  the Bangsamoro Transition Authority (BTA) shall continue as the interim government in the Bangsamoro Region, with the President appointing 80 new interim members of the BTA who shall serve up to June 30, 2025 or until their successors shall have been elected and qualified.

Tolentino reported that the reconciled provision will “expedite the roll out of development and recovery efforts in the Region through the effective leadership of competent, accountable, and reliable officials in the Bangsamoro Transition Authority.”

As approved, the reconciled Senate Bill 2214 and House Bill 10121 will amend Section 13, Article XVI of Republic Act 11054 or the Bangsamoro Organic Law (BOL) of 2018.

Tolentino clarified that “further extending the BTA is a testament to the government’s continued efforts to maintain peace and push for inclusive growth in the BARMM region.”

The Senator stressed the need to extend the BARMM transition period to implement the political and normalization efforts embodied in the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro (CAB) since the global pandemic posed significant challenges to the execution of the priority programs and projects of the Bangsamoro government.

“Our brothers and sisters in the BARMM Region should not wait until June 2022 to have the leaders they truly deserve,” he said, adding: “Albeit considerable effort of the BTA to fulfill some of its mandates under the BOL, Tolentino underscored that “much work is yet to be done” to achieve long and lasting peace and progress in the region.

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