By Ali G. Macabalang
COTABATO CITY: Local, national and international dignitaries are expected to witness colorful activities lined up for the 2021 Kabunsuan Festival celebration here, with Senators Francis Tolentino and Migz Zubiri deemed as special guests in recognition of their vital role in the extended the lifespan of the Bangsamoro Transition Authority (BTA).
BTA of the interim ruling body of the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM) governance, which hosts the weeklong celebration to commemorate the arrival in mainland Mindanao of Islamic missionary Shariff Mohammad Kabunsuan in 1520, on one hand, and promote the region, its products and potentials, on the other.
The weeklong fete, which would start today (Monday) with a start of trade fair, tourism exhibit and photo gallery at the regional government seat here, is likely to attract candidates for local and national positions in the May 9, 2022 polls.
In pursuit of their culture-based hospitality trait, BARMM officials are not likely to shun politicians and candidates who may come for their vote-soliciting presence, regardless of their past deeds for or against Bangsamoro autonomy.
So far, Senators Zubiri and Tolentino have been formally invited to the grand celebration in tribute to their role in the legislation of a bill signed last Oct. 28 by President Duterte as Republic Act (RA) No. 11593 to postpone the 2022 regional parliament elections and extend the BTA transition period to 2025, said Ministry of Trade, Investment and Tourism (MTIT) Director General Roslaini Alonto-Sinarimbo.
Zubiri was the main author in the Senate of R.A. 11054, known as Bangsamoro Organic Law (BOL), which created the new autonomous region in 2019. As Senate majority floor leader, he paved the way for Sen. Tolentino to amply sponsor the enabling bill of R.A. 11593.
In the House of Representatives, the counterpart bill was principally sponsored by Rep. Esmael “Toto” Mangudadatu of Maguindanao 2nd Congressional District. House Bill 10121 harmonized four similar bills he, Reps. Lorren Legarda, Martin Romualdez and Isidro Ungab had filed.
Supporters said Rep. Mangudadatu has been invited also to the weeklong festival alongside his wife, 2018 Mutya ng Pilipinas and Miss Asia-Pacific Sharifa Akeel. The celebrity wife would help showcase in a fashion show on Dec. 17 the Bangsamoro dresses made of inaul or hand-woven fabrics locally produced in BARMM.
Sources said interim BARMM Chief Minister Ahod “Hadji Murad” Ebrahim and his fellow festival facilitating-officials wanted “no political undertone” in the conduct of the annual festival for the coming of Shariff Kabunsuan as an Islamic missionary, trader and royal personality. Kabunsuan was the first Sultan of Maguindanao.
But since the weeklong celebration also involves a sort of thanksgiving, event organizers were taking the opportunity to pay tribute to political officials involved in the BTA transition extension, a campaign that had caused heated debate among lawmakers and elected executives within BARMM.
The United Bangsamoro Justice Party (UBJP), the registered political bloc of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front and reigning BARMM officials, has fielded Rep. Mangudadatu as standard bearer in the 2022 Maguindanao gubernatorial race against sitting Governor Mariam Sangki-Mangudadatu.
The UBJP leadership had explained that its nomination of Rep. Mangudadatu was prompted by collective maneuvers against the BTA extension drive staged openly and covertly by allied politicians, including Gov. Sangki-Mangudadatu and her husband, Sultan Kudarat Suharto “Teng” Mangudadatu.
Because of his perceived intimidations from the couple executives, Rep. Mangudadatu – a former governor for three terms – also fielded wife Sharifa as gubernatorial contender in Sultan Kudarat under a national political party.
(Philippine Muslim Today)