Still no word from OPAPP on status of Tawi-tawi CSO leader who took oath as BTA member

DAVAO CITY (MindaNews / 02 March) – Is she in or out?

What, exactly, is the status of Arlene Napoles-Sevilla, a professor and civil society leader from Tawi-tawi who took her oath as member of the Bangsamoro Transition Authority (BTA) on February 22 but whose appointment paper was not among those released by the Office of the President on February 27?

Sevilla, an Associate Professor and Director of External Affairs Scholarship Coordinator of the Tawi-tawi Regional Agricultural College and Executive Director of the Tawi-tawi Alliance of Civil Society Organizations, a core member of the Anak Mindanao Provincial Team, told MindaNews on Saturday that since February 27, she had not received word from Secretary Carlito Galvez, Jr. of the Office of the Presidential Adviser on Peace, Reconciliation and Unity (formerly Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process) on the status of her BTA membership.

She said she immediately inquired from OPAPP Assistant Secretary Acel Papa on February 27 why her appointment paper was not among those released by Malacanang and was told they would look into it.

Arlene Napoles-Sevilla took her oath as member of the Bangsamoro Transition Authority (BTA) on February 22, attended the turnover from ARMM to BARMM in Cotabato City on February 26 and attended the caucus on February 27. Afternoon of February 27, Malacanang released copies of the appointment papers of BTA members, without hers. MindaNews photo by CAROLYN O. ARGUILLAS

Since then, however, not one from OPAPP had communicated with her, she said.

“Only silence,” said Sevilla who was in Davao City attending a conference on monitoring mining operations in Mindanao. “I deserve an explanation,” she added.

MindaNews has repeatedly sought Galvez on the status of Sevilla’s appointment but he sent no reply.

But Sevilla showed MindaNews a forwarded a screenshot of Galvez’ answer to her colleague in the peace advocacy circles, apologizing for what happened, that he was informed only in the morning of February 22 or hours before the oathtaking, that 11 nominees did “not pass the final vetting” in Malacanang and that they were able to inform “all the other ten individuals but we made some lapses of informing Ms Sevilla.”

Sevilla said Galvez found time to apologize to her colleague, but he has not spoken with her or sent her a message by phone or by email.

Last Friday, exactly a week after she took her oath as BTA member, and two days after her Malacanang released BTA appointment papers without hers, Sevilla posted on her Facebook page a message requesting “the person responsible (for) the alleged ‘mistake’” committed against her “to have the decency to officially write me directly.”

She did not directly name Galvez.

Johary Ditucalan Ayo of the Consortium of Bangamoro Civil Society appealed to “those responsible” to “publicly apologize to Arlene and explain the reasons behind so that people understand.”

“In fact, the best justice is for Arlene Sevilla to be given her appointment paper and assume her membership in the BTA. That is even better than any apology,” Ayo wrote.

Dropped from the list

Around noon of February 22, just as the Bangsamoro delegation was at the lobby of the Manila Prince Hotel preparing to board buses and vans for Malacanang, word got around that only the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) and Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) nominees would be able to take their oath.

MindaNews later learned that 10 government nominees supposedly on its “final” list of 39 (the MILF nominated 41) and who attended the February 20 introductory meeting and briefing on the role of the BTA held at the same hotel, were dropped from the list by Malacanang.

Galvez on February 22 declined to comment on the 10 supposed appointees who were dropped from the list that morning but President Duterte told reporters after the oath-taking 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.

The 80-member BTA will govern the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim MIndanao (BARMM) during the three-year transition period until June 30, 2022.

As BTA member, Sevilla attended the ARMM to BARMM turnover rites in Cotabato City on February 26 and the caucus the next day. She recalled that she was resting in a hotel in Cotabato City afternoon of February 27, just after the BTA caucus, when her daughter called her attention that her name was not on the list of BTA members that media reported on, based on the appointment papers released by Malacanang that afternoon.

She immediately asked Assistant Secretary Papa of the OPAPP who assured her she would look into it.

“I am not from a powerful family, not from a political clan, but I have my principle and dignity to protect, that of my children and the basic sectors I have been working with all these years,” Sevilla wrote on her FB page.

“No connections”

She said she was nominated to the post and did not apply for it as she could never imagine applying because “alam ko na ang katulad kong maliit na tao na galing sa laylayan ng lipunan ay walang puwang sa mundo ng mga may kapangyarihan, may mga pera at koneksyon” (I know that people in the margins like myself have no space in the world of the powerful, the moneyed, and those with connections with the powers that be).

Arlene Navales-Sevilla (second from right), a professor in Tawi-tawi and Executive Director of the Tawi-tawi Alliance of Civil Society Organizations, stands beside Presidential Peace Adviser Carlito Galvez, Jr. and President Rodrigo Duterte for the souvenir photo after the oathtaking of members of the Bangsamoro Transition Authority on 22 February 2019. Sevilla was one of 72 BTA members who took their oath that day. Malacanang appointed four more and on Wednesday released the appointment papers of 76 BTA members. But where is Sevilla’s appointment paper? MindaNews photo by MANMAN DEJETO

A Balik-Islam and a single parent, Sevilla said she was grateful that she was nominated to the post. She told MindaNews she was nominated by former Presidential Peace Adviser Teresita Quintos-Deles.

She said that if her having been made to take her oath as BTA member was, indeed a “mistake,” it was committed not only against her person but “the masses who believe in me like PCART (People’s Coalition for ARMM Reforms and Transformation), BaSulTa CSOs (Basilan-Sulu-Tawi-tawi Civil Society Organizations), Women and Youth of Tawi-Tawi who were not heard and accepted to work even if they are qualified and eligibles as they do not have padrinos and connections.”

“It is not about position, it is not only serving the Moro, it is hearing the most unheard voices on the ground from the unserved Lumad, Moro and Christian settlers,” she said.


Sevilla recalled that when word got around noon of the oathtaking that several nominations were denied by Malacanang, she was prepared to spend the afternoon with her daughters.

“I am a nobody, thus, I remained grounded. When I was told by fellow nominees that they received information that their nominations were denied, I readied myself to remove my native attire. Then I received the message to proceed to Malacanang.
Inside the (Rizal) Hall, I was asked my name and was ushered to a chair with my name in it: ARLENE N. SEVILLA, BTA,” Sevilla wrote.

She recalled she was given a copy of the program and the laminated Oath of Office given to all other BTA appointees to read during the oath-taking, that in the rehearsal for Batch 3 photo session with the President, she was supposed to stand to the left of the President but Galvez stood beside Duterte in the actual photo session where she was to the left of Galvez.

Zahria Linky of the Al-Mujadilah Development Foundation, Inc. wants an explanation. In Filipino, she wrote: “Please explain. Of the many who can possibly be taken out, why she? Her appointment to the BTA is the victory of the ordinary CSO. She is the voice of the ordinary Bangsamoro. Why she? There are those who deserve to be taken out. The person replacing her cannot surpass what Ms Arlene can do). (Carolyn O. Arguillas / MindaNews)