ELECTORAL CODE. Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM) lawmakers pose for a photo after the passing into law of the region’s electoral code past Wednesday midnight (March 9, 2023). The BARMM electoral code is the fourth of seven priority measures approved by regional lawmakers for implementation. (Photo courtesy of BTA-BARMM)

COTABATO CITY – Lawmakers in the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM) approved on third and final reading the draft electoral code late Wednesday evening and eventually signed by BARMM Chief Minister Ahod Ebrahim early Thursday.

During his visit to the BARMM last year, President Ferdinand R. Marcos Jr. urged regional leaders to pass the necessary codes as contained in the Bangsamoro Organic Law (BOL), especially the electoral code.

Ebrahim, who certified the bill as urgent, promised the Chief Executive that the measure will become law by the first quarter of 2023, to guide the conduct of the first regional parliament elections in 2025.

Bangsamoro Transition Authority (BTA) Deputy Speaker Omar Yasser Sema, who acted as presiding chair, banged the gavel at 11:58 p.m. to approve BTA Bill No. 29 that will prescribe the structural, functional, and procedural principles of the elections, referenda, and recall proceedings in the region.

The BTA parliament is BARMM's provisional lawmaking body.  

Sixty-four of the 81 lawmakers in attendance voted yes. No one voted against and nobody abstained.

Now called the Bangsamoro Autonomy Act No. 35 or the Bangsamoro Electoral Code (BEC) of 2023, the law established the Bangsamoro electoral office under the direct supervision of the Commission on Elections, regional political parties in the Bangsamoro, elective positions in the parliament, election administration, election offenses, and legal fees, among others.

“The adoption of the BEC today is a major step towards realizing such a promise,” Ebrahim said after signing the law.

Filed in Sept. 2022, the draft code was immediately referred to the BTA Rules Committee.

From Oct. 2022 to Jan. 2023, 12 public consultations were held in Manila, Basilan, Sulu, Tawi-Tawi, Maguindanao, Lanao del Sur, Cotabato City, and the BARMM Special Geographic Area to ensure that all stakeholders were involved in the legislation process.

With the electoral code as the latest addition, BARMM lawmakers have so far approved four laws contained in the BOL, including the administrative, civil service, and education codes.

The MILF-led law-making body is yet to pass three more priority measures that include the local government code, revenue, and indigenous peoples’ rights. (PNA)