Plebiscite needed to postpone Bangsamoro elections – Lacson

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, May 26) — Senator Panfilo Lacson believes postponing the 2022 Bangsamoro elections should be decided by the residents themselves in a plebiscite.

"In the plebiscite they ratified last January of 2019, kasama po ito sa kanilang ni-ratify na magkakaroon ng eleksiyon (this is one of the things they ratified, that there will be an election) after the transition period of three years. So therefore, the people in the Bangsamoro region not being able to exercise that right to suffrage will affect the basic structure of the Bangsamoro regional government," Lacson said during plenary debates on Wednesday.

Lacson was interpellating Senator Francis Tolentino, chair of the committee on local government and sponsor of Senate Bill No. 2214, which seeks to amend the Bangsamoro Organic Law to allow the postponement of the region's first regular election.

The two senators cited the same jurisprudence, the Supreme Court decision on the Abas Kida vs. Senate of the Philippines case but differed in their interpretation.

For Lacson, depriving the Bangsamoro people of their right to vote in 2022 constitutes a change in the basic structure of the regional government — a condition that would require a referendum.

Tolentino has a different view.

"The structure is not affected. The organic law remains, but the substantive right, the fundamental right to vote might be delayed," he said.

Tolentino added that the polls could not push through as scheduled since the interim government has not passed an electoral code, among other reasons. The Bangsamoro Transition Authority said a three-year period is too short to finish all essential transition work. It has appealed for the extension of its term for another three years or until 2025, through the deferment of polls, so it can fulfill its mandate.

The Moro Islamic Liberation Front-led BTA currently governs the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao, which was created through the BOL. It was a result of decades-long negotiations between the government and Moro rebels who fought for self-determination.

Tolentino clarified that the proposed amendments do not seek to extend the term of BTA officials but allow the continued existence of the body. The executive will decide whether to reappoint or replace the interim government officials. President Rodrigo Duterte supports the BTA's call for another three-year term.