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Senator Imee Marcos said that postponing elections in the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region for Muslim Mindanao (BARMM) will also mean a delay in developing the region and correcting the historical injustice on its people.

Under the law, the BARMM elections are supposed to take place at the same time as national elections in May 2022, but several bills in the Senate and the House of Representatives have called for postponing the regional polls to 2025.

Marcos, who chairs the Senate committee on electoral reforms, said a balance must be struck between fulfilling the main purpose of the BARMM Organic Law and giving the Bangsamoro Transitional Authority (BTA) enough time to cope with difficulties in governance wrought by the Covid-19 pandemic and thus effect a smooth turnover of authority to elected officials.

“Given the purpose of this (BARMM) law, which is to rectify historical injustice – political, military, as well as economic – it is important that we conduct these elections at the soonest possible time,” Marcos asserted  during Wednesday’s hearing of the Senate committee on local government.

Marcos added that full political legitimacy in BARMM can only be achieved after elections.

“Decommissioning militants and weapons and achieving a normal way of life cannot take place without full political legitimacy, without inclusive governance, without the complete exercise of the Bangsamoro people’s voting rights. The election has its advantages,” Marcos explained.

“Only after elections will the BARMM be able to focus on normalization that has been stymied by the pandemic, and to address the region’s unique and difficult circumstances,” Marcos added.

The BARMM elections can be held “months or a year after” the May 2022 elections, instead of three years later, Marcos recommended.

“The Commission on Elections (Comelec) has been aggressively preparing for the two elections in 2022, including the upgrade of SK (Sangguniang Kabataan) voter lists as well as the registration of OFWs (overseas Filipino workers),” Marcos pointed out.

While the BTA is still in place, the BARMM elections will be under the control of Comelec.

Marcos cited that despite the pandemic, the Palawan plebiscite on dividing the existing province into three is already set.

“Upon the orders of President Rodrigo Roa Duterte, all elections must continue as close to the stipulated dates as possible,” Marcos also said.