DAVAO CITY (MindaNews / 18 April) — The 1st vice chair of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) and concurrent chair of the Bangsamoro Transition Commission (BTC) is endorsing Special Assistant to the President Christopher Lawrence “Bong Go” for senator.
In an undated statement written on a letterhead of the Office of the 1st Vice Chairman of the MILF Central Committee and titled “Secretary Bong Go’s contribution in the achievement of lasting peace in Mindanao,” Jaafar said Go is “an old friend” of the BTC and the MILF, and “known to us as a man of integrity and competence because he is one of the most trusted men of President Rodrigo Roa Duterte.”
The statement was attached to a press release sent to a media loop in Davao City on April 17 by an official of the Presidential Communications Operations Office.
Communications Secretary Martin Andanar has been endorsing Go’s candidacy.
Go, who served Duterte as Executive Assistant and personal aide from 1998 and as his Special Assistant and head of the Presidential Management Staff, since June 30, 2016, last month thanked the President for endorsing him to the Senate.
“All these started as a joke but with the overwhelming support and encouragement of no less than Mayor Rody (President Duterte) and his supporters, I cannot just set this aside. For the Mayor to say that he will support me to the hilt if I decide to run is more than I could ask for,” Go said in a statement on March 14.
Jaafar wrote that with the “significant contributions” of Go, “the BTC leadership believes that he deserves to be endorsed and supported in the coming 2019 senatorial race.”
“With his new aspiration in public service, we strongly believe that he can contribute more in our shared goal to ensure the success of the future Bangsamoro government and ultimately, achieve lasting peace and prosperity in Mindanao,” he said.
Among Go’s “contributions,” according to Jaafar, is that he demonstrated “exemplary leadership” instrumental in the “good and harmonious relationship of the Filipino people and Bangsamoro in Davao;” that Go “deeply understands the problem of the Bangsamoro people and the importance of addressing them to ensure just and dignified peace in Mindanao;” and that he is “profoundly aware of what is needed for the attainment of the socio-economic prosperity of the country.”
Jaafar added that as Duterte’s Special Assistant, Go serves as a “facilitator” of the BTC’s communications for the Office of the President and other departments and agencies of government; that all concerns “including some sensitive issues confronted by the BTC were clarified and addressed” through Go.
Jaafar noted that through Go’s help, “we were able expedite the legislative process of the BBL in both houses of Congress.”
The MILF has a policy of non-participation in partisan politics. MindaNews asked Jaafar about this but he has yet to send his reply.
MILF chair Al Haj Murad Ebrahim has yet to send his reply, too.
MindaNews checked with other members of the MILF’s Central Committee and the BTC and found Jaafar’s endorsement of Go is apparently a personal decision as members of the MILF Central Committee and the BTC were surprised to learn about the endorsement.
(UPDATE as of 9 p.m. 18 April: Murad told MindaNews in a message Wednesday night that as a matter of policy, the MILF as an organization will not officially endorse any candidate. However, individual members on their own are tolerated. Brother Ghazali in his statement generally related the contribution of Sec. Bong in the effort to pass the BBL. Yes he mentioned Sec. Bong deserves endorsement and support in his plan to run for national office as an expression of gratitude to the Secretary on behalf of the MILF and BTC but such is not an endorsement in itself.”
BTC as caretaker
In accordance with the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro (CAB) signed by government and the MILF on March 27, 2014, the 21-member BTC was tasked to draft the BBL to pave the way for the creation of a new autonomous political entity – the Bangsamoro – that will replace the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM).
The BBL aims to “establish a political entity, provide for its basic structure of government in recognition of the justness and legitimacy of the cause of the Bangsamoro people and their aspiration to chart their political future through a democratic process that will secure their identity and posterity and allow for meaningful self-governance.”
The BTC’s mandate is to draft the BBL and whenever necessary, recommend to Congress proposed amendments to the 1987 Constitution, convene an inclusive Bangsamoro Assembly as a consultative body to discuss the proposed BBL, spearhead the conduct of dialogues and discussions with the public on the Bangsamoro peace process, whenever necessary, assist in identifying and coordinating development programs in the proposed Bangsamoro, and perform such other functions as the President may direct.
A new provision in the 2017 BTC-drafted BBL which was not in the 2014 BTC draft and is not contemplated in the CAB is Section 5 of Article XVI on the Bangsamoro Transition Authority (BTA) which makes the BTC the caretaker governing body of the Bangsamoro “to foreclose any political interregnum in the governance of the region.”
The ARMM, which comprises the core territory of the proposed Bangsamoro, is deemed abolished upon the ratification of the BBL and the BTA, composed of 80 members who will be appointed by the President, is supposed to take over until the first regular elections are held.
Section 5 of Article XVI of the draft BBL states:“To foreclose any political interregnum in the governance of the region, the Bangsamoro Transition Commission (BTC), an independent body created by E.O. 08, shall continue to exist to wind up and caretake the administration of the region until the Bangsamoro Transition Authority (BTA) is constituted.”
The CAB provides that upon promulgation and ratification of the BBL, the ARMM is deemed abolished and “all devolved authorities” shall be vested in the BTA “during the interim period.”
The CAB also provides that the ministerial form and Cabinet system of government shall commence once the BTA is in place and the BTA “may reorganize the bureaucracy into institutions of governance appropriate thereto. ”
The BTA will be led by an interim Chief Minister who shall organize the interim Cabinet composed of 15 primary ministries with sub-offices, and shall appoint two interim Deputy Chief Ministers and other ministers “as may be necessary to perform the functions of government during transition, a majority of whom shall be from among members of the BTA.” (Carolyn O. Arguillas / MindaNews)