Lumads in core territory want Bangsamoro Transition Authority set up ASAP

DAVAO CITY (MindaNews / 01 February) – In the wake of Sunday’s bombing of a cathedral in Jolo, Sulu, the Mindanao Indigenous People’s Legislative Assembly (MIPLA) called on the national government to speed up the establishment of the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM), the new political entity that will replace the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) so the leaders can perform their mandate under RA 11054, the Organic Law for the BARMM.

In its open letter dated January 29 and e-mailed to MindaNews by Timuay Santos Unsad, MIPLA Majority Floor Leader, the MIPLA described the present situation in the region as “nasa sitwasyon ng kawalan ng tiyak” (uncertain) claiming the ARMM leadership is about to lose power as it is deemed abolished once the Bangsamoro law is ratified, while the 80-member Bangasmoro Transition Authority (BTA), which is the transition government in the BARMM, has not been set up.

“Ang nangyaring ito ay nasa sitwasyon ng kawalan ng tiyak na haharap sa ganitong problema sa antas ng pamahalaan ng rehiyon” (We are in an uncertain situation because we do not know who will attend to these problems in terms of governance in the region), MIPLA said.

Leaders of Indigenous Peoples in the Bangsamoro core territory air their concerns at the Mindanao Indigenous Peoples’ Legislative Assembly (MIPLA) on August 29, 2017 in Davao City. Screen grab from OPAPP video

The MIPLA is a platform set up by the Indigenous Peoples’ Peace Panel that the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process (OPAPP) created in 2017, when Jesus Dureza was Peace Adviser, to elicit proposals from the IPs in the Bangsamoro core territory on how to make the Bangsamoro law more responsive to the needs of the IP. Among the priority legislations the law mandates the BTA to pass is the Bangsamoro law for Indigenous Peoples.

Two representatives of the IPs in the proposed core territory – Melanio Ulama and Romeo Saliga — were appointed members of the Bangsamoro Transition Commission (BTC) that drafted the Bangsamoro Basic Law. The filed by Congress as substitute to the draft BBL have been incorporated into what is now RA 11054.

RA 11054 provides, among others, that non-Moro Indigenous Peoples in the Bangsamoro core territory will be represented in the 80-member BTA. The law also provides that the IPs will be represented in the interim Cabinet through the Ministry of Indigenous Peoples’ Affairs.

The MIPLA cited the following organizations behind the open letter: the Timuay Justice and Governance (TJG ) ng mga Katutubong Mamamayang Teduray at Lambangian based in Tenorio, Awang, Datu Odin Sinsuat, Maguindao; Organization Of Tёduray And Lambangian Conference (OTLAC) in Cotabato City; the Tёduray-Lambangian Women’s Organization, Inc. (TLWOI) in Awang, Datu Odin Sinsuat, Maguindanao; the Tёduray And Lambangian Youth And Students Association (TLYSA), Inc. in Tenorio, Awang, Datu Odin Sinsuat, Maguindanao; and the Mamalu Tёduray Organization (MTO) in Nuro, Upi, Maguindanao.

It said the BARMM has yet no powers because “hindi pa proklamado ang botong YES bilang panalo at lalong hindi pa naitatag ang Bangsamoro Autonomous Regional Government o ang Bangsamoro Transition Authority” (the ‘yes’ vote has not been proclaimed as winner and the Bangsamoro Autonomous Government or the Bangsamoro Transition Authority) has not been set up.

The Commission on Elections (Comelec), however, proclaimed last Friday that RA 11054 had been ratified, following the “yes” votes of the majority in the ARMM provines of Basilan, Tawi-tawi, Lanao del Sur and the cities of Marawi and Lamitan; and the city of Cotabato, during the January 21 plebiscite.

Isabela City voted “no” and will not be part of the BARMM. But Sulu province where the “no” vote won by 25,000 votes, will still be part of the BARMM as the law provides that the ARMM votes as “one geographcial area.”

On February 6, voters in the six towns of Lanao del Norte and 67 villages of North Cotabato will cast their votes for inclusion in the BARMM. But even if they vote “yes,” they can be part of BARMM only if their mother units give their consent – in the case of the six towns in Lanao, the voters of the 16 other towns and in North Cotabato, the consent of the rest of the voters in the seven towns.

MIPLA’s letter said people in the ARMM and the rest of the country had hoped that peace in the ARMM and in the entire Mindanao will be achieved soon after the law’s ratification.

But two days after its ratification, two bombs exploded inside and outside Our Lady of Mount Carmel Cathedral in Jolo, Sulu, killing 21 persons and injuring a hundred others.

The MIPLA said non-Moro IPs in the mainland ARMM, were shocked and saddened by the bloody attack inside a church.

It condemned the bombing, condoled with the families of the victims, and called for justice and accountability for those who perpetrated the attack.

It expressed hope that in the pursuit of justice for the victims, the lives of the greater majority will not be endangered.

Transiton process

In its press release on Wednesday, the OPAPP said Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process Carlito Galvez, Jr., met with ARMM Governor Mujiv Hataman and MILF Chair Al Haj Murad Ebrahim in Hataman’s office to prepare for the transition from ARMM to BARMM.

The press release said the meeting was held to “help shepherd the incoming leadership” of the BARMM.

“The meeting was very fruitful. Everybody is in high spirits to ensure the smooth and seamless transition from ARMM to BARMM,” Galvez was quoted as saying.

Under the Bangsamoro law, the 80-member BTA will govern the Bangsamoro during the three-year transition period until the first set of officials is elected in May 2022 and sworn into office on June 30, 2022, the inauguration of the BARMM.

The 25 elected ARMM officials – Governor, Vice Governor and 23 Regional Legislative Assembly members – will also serve as additional members in the BTA but only up to June 30 this year, when their three-year terms shall have expired. (Carolyn O. Arguillas / MindaNews)