Bangsamoro Transition Authority to take oath Feb. 20; ARMM to BARMM turnover on Feb. 25

DAVAO CITY (MindaNews / 17 Feb) – The 80-member Bangsamoro Transition Authority (BTA) will take their oath of office on February 20 in Malacanang on the same day of the “ceremonial confirmation” of the canvass results of the January 21 and February 6 plebiscite on RA 11054 or the Organic Law for the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao.

Malacanang has yet to announce the names of the 80 members of the BTA who will take their oath.

The nominees have been vetted but “we do not know yet the final 80 members of the BTA,” Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process Carlito Galvez told MindaNews late Saturday night.

Thousands of supporters for the ratification of RA 11054 or the Organic Law for the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao gather in the compound of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao on 18 January 2019 while President Rodrigo Duterte, who graced the Peace Assembly inside the Shariff Kabunsuan Cultural Complex, said a ‘yes’ to ratify the Bangsamoro law ends the 50-year armed struggle and marks a “new chapter in our history.” MindaNews photo by MANMAN DEJETO

Galvez had earlier told MindaNews they were eyeing February 21 as the date but according to the invitation sent out by the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process (OPAPP), the oathtaking will be on February 20, at 4 p.m. at the Heroes Hall in Malacanang.

The OPAPP has not formally announced the date of the oathtaking but Gerry Salapuddin, chair of the Southern Philippines Development Authority posted on his Facebook page on Saturday morning the OPAPP’s invitation to him. He also announced on his page the February 25 schedule of the turnover from ARMM to BARMM.

Several other Moro leaders received the same invitation for February 20 from the OPAPP.

Al Haj Murad Ebrahim, chair of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) told MindaNews on Saturday that they were informed Friday about the change in date from February 21 to February 20.

The BTA will govern the Bangsamoro during the three-year transition period until June 30, 2022, when the first set of officials of the BARMM shall have been elected and taken their oath on the inauguration of the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM).

Murad is the MILF’s nominee for Chief Minister. The 80-member BTA headed by the Chief Minister will be appointed by President Rodrigo Duterte.

41 and 39

In accordance with the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro (CAB), the peace agreement signed by government and the MILF on March 27, 2014, the BTA is to be led by the MILF.

The MILF submitted a list of 41 nominees to the BTA while the OPAPP submitted a list of 39.

The BTA oathtaking comes four days short of two years since the 21-member Bangsamoro Transition Commission (BTC), also led by the MILF, took their oath on February 24, 2017 in Davao City.

The BTC was tasked to draft the Bangsamoro Basic Law. What is now RA 11054 is the substitute bill filed by the Bicameral Conference Committee of Congress.

ARMM Governor Mujiv Hataman confirmed to MindaNews that February 25 is the turnover from ARMM to BARMM. “Yan initial arrangement with OPAPP,” he said.

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 30 June 2022. Photo courtesy of OPAPP

February 25 is exactly a month since the Commission on Elections proclaimed RA 11054 ratified by majority of the voters in the proposed core territory.

(Six years earlier, on February 25, 2013, then President Benigno Simeon Aquino III named the members of the then 15 member-BTC. The Aquino administration forged the Framework Agreement on the Bangsamoro in October 2012 and the CAB in March 2014 after 17 years of peace negotiations, but failed to pass the enabling law). 

Based on the results of the 2019 plebiscite, the BARMM is composed of the five-province, two-city, 116-town ARMM (Lanao del Sur, Maguindanao, Basilan, Sulu, Tawi-tawi and the cities of Marawi and Lamitan), plus Cotabato City and 63 villages in North Cotabato.

Sulu voted “no” to the ratification but will still be part of the BARMM because the law provides that the ARMM votes as “one geographical unit.” Sulu has a pending petition before the Supreme Court to declare RA 11054 unconstitutional, citing various reasons, including the treatment of ARMM as one geographical area.

Cotabato City Mayor Cynthia Guiani-Sayadi had earlier said they will file a protest on the conduct of the plebiscite in the city, alleging the MILF employed threats and intimidation. The MILF denied the allegations.

“Rekindling hope”

On February 24, 2017 at the oathtaking of the BTC, Duterte told the commissioners: “Navigate the hindrances and obstructions. Hanapin ninyo ang daan hanggang patungo sa kapayapaan” (Find a way to peace).

It will be difficult, he warned the BTC. “Mahirap ‘yan. It’s going to be a long journey but if there is a product that is acceptable to all, makikita ninyo ako” (I will be around), said Duterte, the 16th President of the Philippines and the first Mindanawon to lead the nation. He is also the first President to claim Moro roots.

“Ang gusto ko talaga mangyari ay kapayapaan (What I really want is peace) but it must be as one country, one nation and one flag,” said Duterte, who had repeatedly vowed to address the historical injustices committed against the Bangsamoro people.

President Rodrigo Duterte poses with the 21 members of the Bangsamoro Transition Commission (BTC) at the launch Friday, February 24, 2017 of the expanded body that will draft the Bangsamoro Basic Law. MindaNews photo by MANMAN DEJETO

He described himself as “a man in a hurry,” citing the threat of “extreme terrorism” of the Islamic State type. “We must avoid extremism or even entertaining or accommodating them because it will destroy all of us,” he said.

Three months later, on May 23, 2017, the Marawi Siege began, plunging the country into a five-month war between government forces and the Islamic State-inspired Maute Group and its allies.

Then Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process Jesus Dureza explained that the BTC would “craft a new draft of what would be another enabling law that will implement the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro but more than that, it will attempt also to converge all the different laws that we have in order that at the end of the day, we have only one Bangsamoro in a very enlightened Filipino nation.”

The BTC had three representatives from the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF). The MNLF forged two peace agreements with the government, in 1976 and 1996.

Galvez early this month told a government radio interview that nine of the 80 BTA members will be coming from the MNLF.

“As we re-launch the BTC today,” Murad said on February 24, 2017, “we rekindle the hope of thousands of our people for a peaceful and progressive Bangsamoro even if we are occasionally gripped by sadness at the failure earlier to pass the BBL.” He urged stakeholders to “look back at those experiences not with bitterness, but with an examining eye so that we may dissect the problems and address them.”

“We must come out better prepared this time to respond to the challenges of legislation. The Filipino people must equally stand prepared to accept us as partners in achieving peace and progress, not only for this region but for the entire country,” Murad said. (Carolyn O. Arguillas / MindaNews)