A delay of elections in the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region for Muslim Mindanao (BARMM) may turn out shorter than the three-year postponement being sought through various bills filed in the Senate and the House of Representatives.
The BARMM elections are supposed to take place at the same time as national elections in May 2022, as prescribed by law.
However, lawmakers including senators Aquilino Pimentel III and Richard Gordon say the regional elections should be postponed to 2025 to give the Bangsamoro Transitional Authority (BTA) more time to cope with the difficulties wrought by the Covid-19 pandemic.
Taking a different tack, Senator Imee Marcos asserted that a long postponement of the BARMM elections will delay development for the Bangsamoro people and the correction of historical injustices committed against them.
Marcos, who chairs the Senate committee on electoral reforms, emphasized that the main purpose of the Bangsamoro Organic Law was “to rectify historical injustices – political, military, as well as economic,” which called for the conduct of elections “at the soonest possible time.”
The lady senator added that President Rodrigo Roa Duterte himself has ordered that “elections must continue as close to the stipulated dates as possible.”
The BARMM elections can be held “months or a year after” the May 2022 national elections, instead of three years later, Marcos recommended.
She explained that a shorter postponement will strike a balance between fulfilling the main purpose of the BARMM Organic Law and giving the BTA enough time to manage a smooth turnover of authority to elected officials.
“Decommissioning militants and weapons and achieving a normal way of life cannot be completed without full political legitimacy, without inclusive governance, without the complete exercise of the Bangsamoro people’s voting rights. The election has its advantages,” Marcos said.
“Only after elections will the BARMM be able to focus on normalization that has been stymied by the pandemic, and to address the region’s unique and difficult circumstances,” the senator added.