SPEAKER PANGALIAN M. BALINDONG
COTABATO CITY – A statement emphasized by Bangsamoro Transition Authority (BTA) Parliament Speaker Atty. Pangalian M. Balindong during a meeting Tuesday, February 16, 2021 with the Committee on Suffrage of the House of Representatives on the imperative of extending the still ongoing transition of the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM).
Balindong stressed we are now at the threshold of putting in place lasting peace in Mindanao, between the Christians and the Muslims, between and amongst all different ethno-linguistic groups, and between all Filipinos.
“We have already accomplished so much. We would want to make sure everything that have been accomplished are sustained and ultimately institutionalized. We certainly have different perspectives in this regard, but I assure you, if given the right perspective, the national leaders will see the imperative of extending the still ongoing transition of the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao,” Balindong said.
Balindong cited having elections is integral to democracy, but said it is not a standalone element of a democracy.
“It is fundamental that it has a fully functional set of public institutions and processes, and these institutions and processes have to be the appropriate set of public institutions and processes to actually result to a fully functioning system of governance,” he said.
Balindong said elections ensure participation so that the people can actually contribute in the democratic process, and choose their leaders who can rule in behalf of the people.
“Ruling in behalf of the people actually means putting first the interests of the people. This can happen only if the appropriate set of public institutions and processes are already put in place and are already fully functional. Without these, elections will just be another exercise in futility, the result will just be the same as it was before,” he emphasized.
Balindong pointed out this is precisely what is being corrected by the historic peace agreement between the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) and the Philippine government. The substantive part of the agreement as contained in the Framework Agreement on the Bangsamoro (FAB) provides for these appropriate set of public institutions and processes. It ensures that the new regional government, BARMM, is consistent with what the 1987 Constitution which provides that it is not just any local government as provided in Sections 1 and 15 to 21 of Article X.
The Bangsamoro Government is structured differently from the National Government and the Local Governments as provided in the FAB and RA 11054 or the Bangsamoro Organic Law (BOL).
“Transitioning to a new regional government could have been easier if it was just a matter of getting more powers, but no, we are virtually starting from scratch. The price that we are to pay therefore, to build the appropriate set of institutions and processes for the Bangsamoro is to painstakingly build, brick by brick, the needed offices to include the transitioning of the previous regional government offices to BARMM; fundamental regional laws that basically serves as implementing laws of the BOL; not just hiring but preparing and keeping career officials effective; establishing intergovernmental relations, both with the local government units (LGUs) within BARMM and with the national government made up of several agencies; putting up the much-needed mechanisms for planning, regulation, monitoring and raising of revenues; and so much more,” the Speaker explained.
Furthermore, Balindong claimed as they do all these ambitious but essential challenging work, they have to already govern as a Regional Government and had to deal with development challenges while battling the ongoing pandemic. He said the required work for a successful transition became apparent only when the real work actually started. That it was not just a matter of passing much-needed regional laws, it literally entailed moving people and putting up institutions from scratch.
“Transition requires continuity. Having elections at this time will setback the still ongoing transition significantly. Note that the regional Administrative Code has just been passed and the filling up of various positions is still ongoing. This means that the core offices for administration have yet to be made fully operational as the requisite organizing is still ongoing,” Balindong emphasized.
The Speaker mentioned there are still other regional laws that are still pending, including the electoral code. Once passed, the offices necessary to conduct the elections will still have to be put up. He said this does not only mean that there might not be enough time for preparation, precisely if the conduct of elections encounter challenges.
“The blame will be with the transition administration. It should be noted though that considering the very political significance of the electoral code, it is but expected that it will as it has already been, take considerable time. It is in the interest of all stakeholders to formulate one that is not only acceptable to all parties, but one that will ensure an effective electoral mechanism as provided in the FAB and the BOL,” Balindong said.
In addition, Balindong said if elections are conducted as originally planned, it will usher in a new regional administration which could even endeavor to modify so much of what has already been done. In the end, the transition will not only be incomplete, it may inadvertently set it back to square one.
“More than all these, it should be noted that BARMM is not an LGU but essentially a meso-level government, an intermediary. It can be as effective only as the mechanism of intergovernmental relations, which is considerably new. Conducting elections will require this mechanism to be firmly in place as it is a key requisite to ensure integrity of the political exercise of elections. With the synchronized elections, attention will be significantly divided at the national level, posing serious challenges to the very first regional elections that is to be conducted,” Balindong stressed. (GALao, Publication and Media Relations Division, BTA Parliament)
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