TO THE POINT: Candid Notes

GENERAL SANTOS CITY (MindaNews / 31 March) — On February 22, 2019, in Malacañan, President Rodrigo R. Duterete swore in the members of the Bangsamoro Transition Authority (BTA) which he had appointed with MILF Chair Al Haj Murad Ebrahim as chief minister. The BTA, the Parliament, is the interim government of the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM) that will replace the 30-year old Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM). That installed BARMM.

On February 26, ARMM Chair Mujiv Hataman formally turned over the ARMM government to BTA Chair Murad. The ARMM was deemed completely abolished, the BARMM established. The BTA organized and set on March 11 the BARMM inauguration and its first session. After that it can start its mandate to build a new governmental structure on the remains of the ARMM for the full-fledged BARMM by June 30, 2022 when the first regular officials will be elected.

But the President could not make the date; it was reset to March 21 even without the President attending. Still, the President was not available on that date and the BTA had to defer to the President’s desire to attend. It was reset again to March 25 which the Palace confirmed; yet, it had for the third time to postpone it to March 29.

On March 29, there was no fourth postponement. The BARMM inauguration went on!

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What inauguration! The first I ever know. An evening affair (from 6:30 p.m. to around 7 p.m.)

At 5 am of March 30, I opened MindaNews for reports on the inauguration. No report. I searched. There were two, one at the PNA website posted at 9:17 pm March 29 and the other at The Manila Bulletin’s posted a little later – identical reports written by PNA.

PNA said the President “arrived here around 6:30 p.m., banged an “agong” (Muslim brass drum) marking the induction of the BARMM and its interim parliament, the 80-member Bangsamoro Transition Authority (BTA)”. This implied the rush. Had it to be held that late on March 29 to avert another postponement?

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PNA described the President’s speech as one of his shortest, reiterating his commitment to work for the benefit of the Moro people until the end of his term in 2022.

He told the BARMM officials: “Let me repeat and reiterate my solemn promise to you a sacred one, that in my term and for the next three years, we will all work and truly work for the benefit of the Bangsamoro people.”

Unless, he was playing politics, he did not have to repeat any promise, solemn or fake. This is his government’s part and future governments’, too, in its covenant, RA 11054 or the Bangsamoro Organic Law, with the Bangsamoros.

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Having celebrated his 74th birthday on the day before, the President said he considered the success of BARMM as his greatest birthday gift. Whatever that success would be was still a dream. He, indeed, was exhorting the BTA to make the dream gift a reality, saying:

“To my dear Bangsamoro sisters and brothers, in the BTA, the power to chart the course of your region’s future is now in your hands, I trust that you will wield this power with utmost care.” … And more:

“As we enter the transition period, I ask everyone to work towards building lasting peace and inclusive progress that will benefit the entire Mindanao and the country as well.”

This is the part of the BTA and future Bangsamoro governments in the same covenant, RA 11054. But no exhortation can make the Bangsamoros succeed unless present and future governments do their part as agreed – without prodding and pleading.

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In his welcome address, BTA Chair Murad said that when the President banged the “agong” that marked a new beginning for the Bangsamoro people. The BTA is the interim government of the newly established BARMM until June 30, 2022 – building on, where feasible and practicable, on solid remains of the ARMM.

Murad envisioned BARMM to be different. “We vow to make moral governance as the foundation of peace leadership.” To realize this, he led the BTA members in vowing for moral governance before the Qur’an.

The “new beginning” moral governance – is the biggest challenge for the BTA. The first step is for the BTA members to plant firmly the foundation. The second is for the BTA to indoctrinate the Bangsamoros to appreciate moral governance and to rally behind the BTA. The third is for the succeeding Bangsamoro Parliament, the next and the next, to continue strengthening moral governance and uniting the Bangsamoros around it.

Can it, will it be done? With Allah’s help, Yes! Hence, the vow before the Qur’an.

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The inauguration was a drama. The principal actors made solemn promises filling the elated Bangsamoros with hope. Waking up in the morning, and many, many mornings thereafter, what Bangsamoro (short for BARMM) awaits – fulfillment or still denial?

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The backdrop of the Sharif Kabunsuan Complex, venue of the affair, read: WELCOME/ PRESIDENT RODRIGO ROA DUTERTE/ INAUGURATION OF THE BANGSAMORO REGION IN MUSLIM MINDANAO – the name of the President twice the size of the name of the Region.

Was the “Welcome” more significant than the “Inaugurtion”?

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Why were the inauguration, the oath-taking of the BTA members and the turn-over of the ARMM to BARMM Interim Chief Minister not held simultaneously last February 22, most preferably at Sharif Kabunsuan Complex than in Malacañan? That would have saved time, money and efforts.

The BTA could have started its mandate on February 23 rather than on March 30, a delay of more than one month.

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When MNLF Chair Nur Misuari visited Malacañan last March 20, President Duterte apologized to his “beloved friend” for their unimplemented “agreements” on federalism. Nowhere in its report did PNA mention that the President apologized to the BTA for causing the repeated postponement of the inauguration.

Does this show the President holds Misuari in higher esteem than the BTA?