Last week's study group session in Midsayap, North Cotabato with the leaders from the 63 expansion barangays of the BARMM is the third of the series on issues related to the parliamentary elections in the BARMM. Existing and emerging political parties, civil society groups, regional and national election experts and some members of the BTA/Bangsamoro parliament had participated in the two previous study sessions. This third series in particular involves leaders of the 63 barangays in North Cotabato province that voted to become part of the BARMM. In this regard, the central topic of discussion for this series is on how the expansion areas would be able to participate and be represented in the Bangsamoro parliament.

 

The participants in this Study Session are the cluster coordinators of the 8 area clusters which at this stage can be considered as interim municipalities organized by the BARMM leadership. These area clusters comprised BARMM’s Special Geographic Unit managed by the Development Coordinating Office (DCO) headed by the Administrator.

 

Given this aim, the discussion was primarily directed on how these expansion areas will be organized into a regular political unit in such a way that they will be classified later as one of the BARMM’s parliamentary district or districts entitled to have one to two parliamentary district seats out of the 32 seats reserved for district representatives. At first, the position of the cluster leaders of the 63 barangays is for these areas to be subdivided into two districts different from the political delineation of the two congressional districts in North Cotabato. Nevertheless, in the course of the discussion, they have realized that this position will possibly pose some practical challenges during actual elections specifically in designing the election ballots. Hence, they modified their position to just have one parliamentary district but they will have to propose 2 parliamentary seats.

 

Another subject of discussion in the Study Session is the representation of the political parties in the Bangsamoro parliament. The position of the Area Coordinators together with the DCO Administrator and staff were:

  1. The candidates for the district seats should also come from regional political parties. This is to make sure that the district representatives in the parliament will also have programmatic agenda coming from a political party;
  2. Only legitimate regional political parties must be given accreditation and certificate of registration by the BEO which will give them the legitimacy to compete for the 40 seats reserved for political parties under the proportional representation system;
  3. Geographic and ethnic representation must be observed in the choosing party nominees. Since most of the participants are members of the United Bangsamoro Justice Party (UBJP), they would like that the nominee coming from the 63 barangays should occupy at least the top 5 in the order of nomination in order to have a higher “fighting” chance;
  4. The participants also agreed that the Electoral Code should incorporate some provisions of Bangsamoro Local Government Code setting-out the qualification for local government officials and some measures against the proliferation of “political dynasty” in the LGUs.    

 

The series of SGS were organized with the end goal of drawing out policy proposals from various stakeholders and the result of which will be consolidated into a policy paper which will be submitted to the BARMM cabinet in-charge of drafting the Bangsamoro Electoral Code. It can also be used by different stakeholders in the event public consultations will be conducted by the BARMM.