Appointments to Bangsamoro transition body out after Feb. 6 plebiscite

DAVAO CITY (MindaNews / 02 February) — President Rodrigo Duterte will name the 80 members of the Bangsamoro Transition Authority (BTA) after the February 6 plebiscite in Lanao del Norte and North Cotabato on the proposed inclusion of some of its towns and villages in the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM).

Secretary Carlito Galvez, Jr., Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process, told MindaNews his office has submitted to the Office of the Executive Secretary the names of 80 nominees to the body that will govern the BARMM during the three-year transition period.

Galvez assured the 80 nominees are a “good representation” of Moro, settler communities and Indigenous Peoples living in the Bangsamoro. He said 41 were nominated by the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) and 39 by the government.

A Moro woman holds on to her child as she casts her vote in a polling precinct in Simuay Junction Central Elementary School in Simuay, Sultan Kudarat, Maguindanao on January 21, 2019, day of the plebiscite for the Bangsamoro Law. MindaNews photo by MANMAN DEJETO

Under the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro (CAB), the peace agreement that government and the MILF signed on March 27, 2014, the MILF will lead the BTA, as it did the Bangsamoro Transition Commission (BTC) which drafted the Bangsamoro Basic Law (what is now RA 11054 was the substitute bill of the Bicameral Conference Committee in Congress).

Galvez said they are pushing for the immediate constitution of the BTA.

The Commission on Elections on January 25 proclaimed RA 11054 or the Organic Law for the BARMM ratified by an overwhelming majority in the five-province, two-city Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) and the city of Cotabato which will now form the core territory of the BARMM.

The results of the February 6 plebiscite will determine with finality the territorial scope of the BARMM – if six Lanao del Norte towns and 67 villages in seven North Cotabato towns will be part of it.

Isabela City in Basilan rejected inclusion in the BARMM, as did Sulu in the January 21 plebiscite. But Sulu will still be part of the BARMM because the law provides that the ARMM votes as “one geographical area,” a provision the province questioned, among others, in its pending petition before the Supreme Court.

The four other ARMM provinces — Maguindanao, Lanao del Sur including Marawi City, Basilan including Lamitan City, and Tawi-tawi – voted ‘yes.’

From ARMM to BARMM via BTA

The ARMM is deemed abolished upon its ratification and the BTA is to take over in the interim.

But Congress inserted a provision in RA 11054 that is not in the CAB, to allow for a caretaker administration “to foreclose any political interregnum in the governance of the region,” should there be a delay in the constitution of the BTA.

The caretakers are the 25 elected ARMM officials (Governor, Vice Governor and 23 members of the Regional Legislative Assembly) and 20 BTC members.

But Galvez said there may be no need for a caretaker body as they are pushing for the immediate constitution of the BTA.

MILF chair Al Haj Murad Ebrahim, the MILF’s nominee to the post of Chief Minister, told MindaNews on Friday that they hope the BTA will be set up within the month of February so the transition can immediately begin.

RA 11054 provides that the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) which signed the 1976 and 1996 peace agreements with government, is also to be represented in the BTA along with “non-Moro indigenous communities, youth, women, settler communities,  traditional leaders, and other sectors.”

The MNLF faction under Yusoph Jikiri and Muslimin Sema has three representatives in the BTC. MNLF founding chair Nur Misuari declined the government’s invitation to nominate representatives.

80 plus 25

In addition to the 80-member BTA, the 25 elected officials of the ARMM “shall automatically become members” but only until June 30, 2019, when their terms shall have expired.

The law vests the BTA with legislative and executive powers, the executive exercised by the interim Chief Minister.

Galvez, ARMM Governor Mujiv Hataman and Murad met in Hataman’s office on Wednesday to discuss the transition process.

Governor Mujiv Hataman of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM), Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MNLF) chair Al Haj Murad Ebrahim, the Front’s nominee to the post of Chief Minister of the 80-member Bangsamoro Transition Authority and Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process Carlito Galvez, Jr., flash the Peace sign during a meeting on the transition process at the Office of the Regional Governor in Cotabato City on 30 January 2019. The newly-ratified RA 11054 or the Organic Law for the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao provides that the ARMM is deemed abolished upon its ratification and the BTA will serve as the transition government until the first set of officials is elected in May 2022. Photo courtesy of OPAPP

During the three-year transition period, the BTA exercises all powers and functions of the Bangsamoro Government as provided in RA 11054.

The law mandates it to accomplish these “priority legislations”: the Code of Parliamentary Rules and Procedures, Bangsamoro Administrative Code, Bangsamoro Tax and Revenue Code, Bangsamoro Electoral Code, Bangsamoro Local Government Code, Bangsamoro Education Code, Bangsamoro law for Indigenous Peoples, Bangsamoro Civil Service Code.

The law also provides that within 60 days of the transition period, the interim Chief Minister will submit to the BTA, for its approval within 10 days, a transition plan that shall contain the proposed organizational plan and the schedule for implementation. The transition plan shall be implemented within 15 days from its approval.

The interim Chief Minister organizes the interim Cabinet, appoints two interim Deputy Chief Ministers from among the BTA members and appoints “such other ministers as may be necessary to perform the functions of government during the transition period,” majority of whom shall be from among the BTA.

BTA members appointed to Cabinet posts shall serve their offices concurrently.

According to the law, the Interim Cabinet shall be composed of 15 primary ministries with sub-offices: Finance, and Budget and Management; Social Services;
Trade, Investments, and Tourism; Labor and Employment;
Transportation and Communications; Basic, Higher and Technical Education; Indigenous Peoples’ Affairs; Health;
Public Works;
Local Government;
Environment, Natural Resources, and Energy; Human Settlements and Development;
Science and Technology;
Agriculture, Fisheries, and Agrarian Reform; and Public Order and Safety.

The law also states that the BTA can create other offices on youth, women, settler communities, disaster risk reduction and management, and planning and development, among others; as well as the Attorney General’s Office, under the Office of the Chief Minister. (Carolyn O. Arguillas / MindaNews)