(File photo)

MANILA – The House of Representatives on Wednesday unanimously approved on third reading a bill seeking to reset the first regular elections of the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM) from 2022 to 2025.

The bill's final approval came only two days after it was passed on second reading following the certification of urgency from President Rodrigo Duterte.

With 187 affirmative votes, zero negative votes, and no abstention, the chamber approved House Bill 10121 proposing to postpone for three years the first regular BARMM elections.

In a letter to Speaker Lord Allan Velasco, Duterte certified as urgent House Bill 10121 to "give the Bangsamoro transitional government sufficient time to complete its mandate, establish a strong bureaucracy, and enact foundational codes essential to the achievement of the aspirations of unity, genuine autonomy, and development" in BARMM.

With the certification, the House can immediately proceed with the third reading approval of the bill without waiting for three days after it was approved on the second reading.

The measure aims to provide the Bangsamoro Transition Authority (BTA), the 80-member interim lawmaking body of BARMM, another three years to complete its mandated duties, as cited in the Bangsamoro Organic Law (BOL)

Maguindanao Rep. Esmael Mangudadatu, who chairs the Special Committee on Peace, Reconciliation and Unity, said the Covid-19 pandemic has delayed the programs of the BTA, including the normalization and decommissioning process for thousands of former Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) combatants.

“The remaining nine months before the May 2022 elections or the (previous) months before the October 2021 filing of candidacy is not enough for both sides to deliver the remaining 65 to 75 percent in the political task alone,” Mangudadatu said.

To date, about 12,000 ex-MILF combatants were decommissioned during the second phase of the normalization track under the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro.

The normalization process includes the decommissioning of MILF combatants and their weapons, and the transformation of several camps into productive and resilient communities. (PNA)