DAVAO CITY (MindaNews /27 February) — Strange things are still happening in the Bangsamoro Transition Authority (BTA).
On Friday morning, 10 nominees of government were suddenly dropped from the list of those who would take their oath that afternoon in Malacanang.. On Wednesday, a civil society leader from Tawi-tawi who took her oath as BTA member last Friday, suddenly finds that while Malacanang has released 76 appointment papers, hers was not among them.
Malacanang on Wednesday finally released the appointment papers of 76 members – 41 nominated by the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) and 35 nominated by the government — supposedly leaving only four more members to complete the 80-member transition body that would govern the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM) until June 30, 2022.
The total number of appointees, however, is 77, not 76. But where is the appointment paper of a civil society representative from Tawi-tawi whom government nominated and who took her oath in Malacanang with 71 others last February 22?
Arlene Napoles Sevilla, Associate Professor and Director of External Affairs and Scholarship Coordinator of the Tawi-tawi Regional Agricultural College and Executive Director of the Tawi-tawi Alliance of Civil Society Organizations, even stood beside Presidential Peace Adviser Carlito Galvez, Jr. and President Rodrigo Duterte for the souvenir photo of Batch 3 of the BTA members. (The BTA members were divided into three batches for the photo session with the President).
As BTA member, Sevilla attended the ARMM to BARMM turnover rites in Cotabato City on February 26 and the meeting of the BTA members the next day in the same city.
MindaNews asked Galvez what happened to Sevilla’s appointment papers but he had not replied as of 9 p.m. Wednesday.
Sevilla told MindaNews that when she read the news reports on the appointments of BTA members released by Malacanang on Wednesday afternoon, she was “surprised that my name is not listed” so she sent a message to Assistant Secretary Acel Papa of the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process (OPAPP) and the Presidential Management Staff “as to why I am not on the list.”
“ASec Acel told me that OPAPP is looking into the matter,” she said.
Last Friday, instead of 80, only 72 took their oath in Malacanang: 40 from the MILF nominees and 32 from the government nominees, including Sevilla. Bai Maleiha Candao, the 41st MILF nominee was unable to attend as she was recuperating from an ailment but her appointment paper has been signed and was among the 76 released by Malacanang on Wednesday.
The appointment of the additional four members nominated by the government – Jamel Ditucalan Macaraya, Modayao Macasalong Sacar, Edrieza H. Nasser Rimbang and Nabila Margarita Pacasum Pangandaman – were dated February 22 – the same date on the papers of the 72 who took their oath that day.
RA 11054 or the Organic Law for the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM) provides that the BTA will be led by the MILF, in accordance with the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro, the peace agreement government and the MILF signed on March 27, 2014.
The MILF nominated 41, the government 39.
The oathtaking was initially targeted for February 21 but later set for February 20. The guests from the Bangsamoro found out about the postponement from February 20 to February 22 only during the welcome dinner at the Manila Prince Hotel on February 19, the day they arrived for their supposed date with history the next day.
Galvez met with government nominees supposedly on the “final list” of 39 – all vetted and cleared — on February 20. Thirty-six were present for the introductions and briefing on the role of the BTA, a meeting that lasted four hours and 30 minutes. Galvez, they said, was frank enough to tell them they were on the list as of that day.
No announcements were made about the nominees, unlike the Bangsamoro Transition Comission in 2017 when the 21 members were named on February 10 and were sworn in two weeks later in Davao City.
MindaNews sources privy to the selection process said there was “intense lobbying” from politicians and some Cabinet members to either put the names of their recommendees on the list or to “exchange” some on the list with their protégés.
Even President Duterte acknowledged that changes were made.
In the morning of February 22, shortly before noon, 10 of the supposed 39 government nominees, were told the bad news: that they should no longer proceed to Malacanang as they were dropped from the list.
“Napolitika” (Politics), they were told.
Galvez last Friday declined to comment on the 10 nominees dropped from the list that morning but President Duterte told reporters after the oathtaking that he was late because “may hinabol sila na late. May in-exchange” (They were trying to include some people. They exchanged.’’
The President was not referring to Galvez’ office but to the OP.
72 + 1 + 4 = 77
At the Rizal Hall in Malacanang, 10 of their fellow nominees whom they met two days earlier at the Manila Prince Hotel meeting were not around but three new nominees showed up to take their oath: Mayor Abraham “Jess” Burahan of Hadji Panglima Tahil in Sulu, Assemblyman Khadafeh Mangudadatu of the ARMM’s Regional Legislative Assembly, and Paisalin Tago, a former commissioner at the National Commission on Muslim Filipinos.
MindaNews asked Galvez immediately after the oathtaking how many took their oath. Seveny six, he replied, but MindaNews checked the photographs in three batches and counted 72: 26 in Batch 1, 25 in Batch 2 and 21 in Batch 3.
On Sunday, when MindaNews told him only 72 BTA members were able to take their oath based on the photographs with the President and validated by MindaNews with the BTA members themselves, Galvez replied: “based on our latest coordination with OP (Office of the President), we have 76. The remaining (four) will be filled up by OP. Honestly speaking, the 80 is already filled. We are just completing the vetting process and clearance procedures.”
Galvez said “hindi nakahabol ang clearances” (the clearances were not submitted on time) for the oathttaking.
Asked if these “clearances” referred to the “replacements,” he replied: “no comment.”
Of the supposed 80-member BTA, 72 took their oath in Malacanang last Friday, including Sevilla; the appointment paper of the MILF nominee who was unable to take her oath has been signed, making that 73, and four more were appointed – Macaraya, Pangandaman, Rimbang and Sacar, for a total of 77 appointed BTA members.
Only three more members are needed to complete 80. (Carolyn O. Arguillas / MindaNews)