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BARMM’s new parliamentary districts won’t affect representation in House, says BTA member

The parliamentary districts in the new Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM) will not affect the standing of BARMM representatives in the House of Representatives, a member of the Bangsamoro Transition Authority (BTA) said on Thursday.

Lawyer Lanang Ali, Jr., Majority Leader of the BTA which governs the BARMM until the conduct of May 2022 polls, said the new parliamentary districts in the new autonomous region was meant to ensure equitable representation among the  Bangsamoro constituents.

Ali was referring to the provisions in the Bangsamoro Organic law (BOL), which allocated 40 percent of their parliament seats to representatives of from parliamentary districts within BARMM.

“When we crafted the BOL, ang unang unang consideration namin ay cultural, religion and traditional perspective ng mga members ng Bangsamoro region," Ali said at a forum on the BARMM.

"Hindi lang naman Moro ang andito eh, meron ring Christians, IP, 13 linguistic tribes. Sa parliamentary re-districting, magkakaroon ng representation ang bawat isa,” he added.

“Walang babaguhin sa national level [concerning legislative districts]. Ang parliamentary re-districting, applicable lang sa Bangsamoro Region. It does not affect the system at the national level kasi para lamang ito sa [Bangsamoro] Regional government,” Ali said.

The ratification of the BOL in February paved the way for the creation of BARMM, abolishing the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM).

The BARMM—which enjoys expanded land and water jurisdiction, fiscal autonomy, increased share in national government resources, among others, compared with ARMM—includes all previous ARMM provinces and in addition, Cotabato City and 63 barangays are located in the municipalities of  Aleosan, Carmen, Kabacan, Midsayap, Pigkawayan and Pikit in North Cotabato.

‘Level playing field’

Ali cited the case of Cotabato city—a new addition to BARMM’s jurisdiction and whose population is half Christian, half Muslim.

“Sa Cotabato city, the population is 250,000. Half niyan, Muslim, half ay Christian. So dalawang parliamentary districts na ‘yan. ‘Yung isa, Christian ang majority.’Yung isa, Moro," Ali said.

"So mananalo na agad ng Christian sa Christian majority. Sa IP-majority area, ganun rin, mananalo ang IP. So represented na sila agad sa parliament,” he added.

“Sa nakaraang 20 years ng ARMM, sino lang ba nakakaupo ? Mga Moro, kasi sila ang majority. Ang Bangsamoro region, para ito sa lahat,” Ali said.

Ali said local government units were assured that their jurisdictions wouldn't be affected by the parliamentary re-districting in BARMM since LGUs remain governed by the Local Government Code.

“Legislative districts are under the Constitution, while LGUs are under the Local Government Code. Ang ni-repeal lang ng BOL, ‘yung RA 9054 (Organic Law which established ARMM),” Ali said.

Director James Jimenez of the Commission on Elections (Comelec), however, said that executing this system could be difficult.

“That will be an operational challenge because you will have a different number of precincts, precincts will be arranged differently… A voter in a legislative district may end up voting in another parliamentary district under the BARMM. There will be a lot of work,” Jimenez said.

“The ultimate goal is to enable the people to exercise their right to vote easily, with little effort as possible. Here, we might end up running two different systems,” he added.

The Comelec official, however, said there was still time to iron out the details.

“There is time to hammer this out. What we just need is strong coordination among stakeholders so we can address these problems which are really foreseeable,” Jimenez said. —NB, GMA News

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