THREE presidential candidates Vice President Maria Leonor LeniG. Robredo, Manila Mayor Francisco IskoM. Domagoso, and labor leader Leodegario Ka Leodyde Guzmanwill first hold stakeholder consultations before making any changes in the Bangsamoro Transition Authority (BTA), their representatives said at a forum last week.

Senator Emmanuel MannyD. Pacquiao, on the other hand, aims to allow the current BTA to finish the jobuntil 2025 while Senator Panfilo M. Lacson intends to use the presidents authority to appoint members of the 80-member body. 

Discussions are always welcome when it comes to continued term,senatorial candidate Teodoro TeddyB. Baguilat, Jr. under Ms. Robredos slate said at the Bangsamoro Agenda 2022 forum. 

What is more important for Leni Robredo is to address the (regions development) road mapto ensure transition by 2025,he added in mixed English and Filipino.  

Mr. Baguilat said wide-reaching consultations with various Bangsamoro sectors, including non-moro indigenous peoples, should be held to develop criteria on choosing BTA representatives before making new appointments.

Mr. De Guzmans campaign manager, Sonny Melencio, also said wider consultationsare important given the sensitivity of issues relating to the restive regions transition.  

He said decisions should not be simply handed down from Imperial Manila,an expression that implies Mindanaos aversion to the national government given that choices have been historically inequitable for the southern islands.  

Senatorial candidate Samira Gutoc-Tomawis under Mr. Domagosos Aksyon Demokratiko party said while the mayor has committed continuityto the Bangsamoro leadership, this will be subject to some operational discussions like merit-based audit on achievements.” 

Senator Aquilino KokoPimentel III, chair of the PDP-Laban faction supporting Mr. Pacquiao, said their partyd default positionis to allow the current crop of BTA members to finish the job.”  

But of course, if there is a compelling reason from consultation with the leaders on the ground that there is a need to change the members, then we will do it,Mr. Pimentel added.   

Senatorial candidate Emmanuel F. Piñol, meanwhile, said Mr. Lacson believes that he is duty-bound to implementthe presidents mandate to appoint BTA members.   

His mindset is always the majesty of the law,Mr. Piñol said, noting Mr. Lacsons career as a police officer.   

He (Mr. Lacson) assures that appointments will be based on merit and fitness, with the ultimate goal of promoting the interests of the Bangsamoro people,Mr. Piñol said.   

Republic Act 11593, signed in October last year, postponed the first regular Bangsamoro regional elections to 2025 from 2022. This effectively extended the transition period by three years. It includes a provision giving authority to the Presidentto appoint the BTA members.   

President Rodrigo R. Duterte, who is leaving office on June 30, approved earlier this month a recommendation to extend the current BTA members term. Marifi S. Jara