Women in the Bangsamoro Transition Authority: only 16 of 98 but a powerhouse cast

Women in the Bangsamoro Transition Authority: only 16 of 98 but a powerhouse cast
by Carolyn O. Arguillas / MindaNews

At the Peace Assembly on January 18 to push for the ratification of Republic Act 11054 or the Organic Law for the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao, a frail, softspoken elderly lady — the lone female speaker in that gathering at the Shariff Kabunsuan Cultural Complex in Cotabato City — declared, in Filipino: “We are not only women, we are not only mothers, and we will not just sit down and wait for the future. We represent a huge number that would vote and make the Bangsamoro Organic Law win.”

The 66-year old Hadja Bainon Guiabar Karon, now a member of the Bangsamoro Transition Authority (BTA) and appointed Chair of the Regional Commission on Bangsamoro Women (RCWB), lost her husband-commander, Ibrahim Gampong Sema, and five of her seven brothers – Datu Sangki, Datu Ali, Datu Kiram, Datu Sonny and Datu Ronnie — to the Bangsamoro struggle to assert their right to self-determination, a struggle she embraced at age 18 as a student activist under the Federation of Muslim Students.

Karon later headed the Women’s Committee of the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) Central Committee and served as Social Welfare Secretary of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) under Governor Parouk Hussin (also with the MNLF) from 2002 to 2005. She was named OIC Vice Governor of the ARMM from December 2011 to June 30, 2013, concurrently serving also as Social Welfare Secretary.

The audience fell silent as Karon, chair of the Federation of United Mindanawan Bangsamoro Women and Women’s Organizations Movement of Bangsamoro (WOMB), recalled how she ran “ilang libong beses” (literally, thousands of times) to avoid getting caught in the crossfire, hid in foxholes to keep safe, go without food for several days and transfer to different places to save herself and her family, a narrative shared by thousands of Moro women, as well as women from the Indigenous Peoples and settler communities in the conflict-affected areas in the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM).

“Ang araw na ito ay napakahalaga sa amin upang patuloy na maniwala na magtatagumpay tayo sa kapayapaan” (This day is very important to us so we can continue to believe peace will triumph),” she said.

Along with other senior leaders of the MNLF and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), Karon had hoped to see the end of the armed struggle waged by the liberation fronts. They did, 51 years after the Jabidah Massacre that changed the course of their lives.

They are embarking on a “new jihad,” this time as officials of the new political entity called the BARMM, the third attempt – “the third experiment” as cynics would say — at establishing an autonomous region that would truly allow the Moro people to chart their own destiny.

The creation of the BARMM was agreed upon in the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro that was signed on March 27, 2014 after 17 years of peace negotiations between government and the MILF, and made possible through its enabling law, Republic Act 11054 or the Organic Act for the BARMM, to allow for “meaningful self-governance within the framework of the Constitution and the national sovereignty as well as territorial integrity of the Republic of the Philippines.”

Success, or failure

The BTA, the body that will govern the BARMM until June 30, 2022, plays a crucial role in this continuing assertion of the Bangsamoro’s right to self-determination. In their hands lie the success – or the failure – of the BARMM.

Karon is one of a dozen women out of the present composition of 75 appointees, accounting for only 16%.

But until June 30 this year, the 12 women appointees will have four more women allies from out of the 23 elected officials of the ARMM who are serving as BTA members until their three-year terms end at noon that day.

Out of the present total membership of 98 – 75 out of supposed 80 appointees and 23 elected — the BTA has 16 women or 16.33%.

The 12 women appointees comprise a powerhouse cast, including four lawyers and two civil engineers. Four of them occupy key posts in the BARMM, two of them in the Cabinet: lawyer Raissa Herradura Jajurie, the Minister for Social Services, and civil engineer Aida Macalimpas Silongan, the Minister for Science and Technology. Karon heads the RCWB while Laisa Masuhud Alamia is Minority Leader of the Parliament.

If Malacanang had released the appointment paper of a professor and civil society leader from Tawi-tawi who was among the 72 sworn in as BTA members by President Rodrigo Duterte in Malacanang on February 22, there would have been 13 women appointees. And if the names of 10 other government nominees who were supposed to have been on the “final list” had not been stricken off barely four hours before the oath-taking, there would have been five more women appointees.

It is not clear when Duterte would fill the remaining four slots and if there will be women among them.

The CAB, the peace agreement signed by government and the MILF, provides for an 80-member BTA that would be led by the MILF. The MILF nominated 41 members, the government is supposed to nominate 39.

Of the 12 women appointees, five were nominated by the MILF: Asmawil, Candao, Jajurie, Karon and Silongan.

RA 11054 mandates representation of women in the Cabinet (“at least one”), in the Council of Elders “that shall advise the Chief Minister on matters of governance,” and tasks the Parliament to pass laws that recognize “important role of women in nation-building and regional development” as well as uphold and protect the fundamental rights of women (Read: The autonomy laws and representation, participation and protection of women in the Bangsamoro)

16 women

The 12 women appointed as Members of Parliament (MPs) who will serve until June 30, 2022 are Karon; lawyers Jajurie, Alamia, Anna Tarhata Sumande Basman, and Maisara Damdamun-Latiph; civil engineers Silongan and Baintan Adil Ampatuan; Professor Susan Anayatin, writer and former newspaper publisher Maleiha Bajunaid Candao, law graduate Sittie Shahara Ibrahim-Mastura, political affairs officer Nabila Margarita Pacasum Pangandaman, and community organizer Muslima Abubakar Asmawil.

The four ARMM Assemblywomen who will serve until June 30, 2019 are Pearl Joy Piang of the 2nd district of Maguindanao; Nedra Burahan of Sulu’s 1st district; Rudjia Anni and Irene Tillah of the 2nd district of Sulu.

Out of the 16 women, four are nurses (Alamia, Anni, Burahan and Tillah); one is a former three-term mayor (Burahan), two are two-term members of the ARMM’s Regional Legislative Assembly (Burahan and Anni); and one is running for vice mayor in the May 2019 polls (Anni).

12 appointees

Many of the appointees have served in the Bangsamoro peace process in various ways, including membership in the technical working group of the MILF peace panel (Jajurie) and the legal team of the government peace panel (Basman) and in the Bangsamoro Development Agency (Silongan and Asmawil).

Three of them were members of the Bangsamoro Transition Commission (BTC) that drafted the Bangsamoro basic law: Jajurie from 2013 to 2016 and 2017-2019; Latiph and Anayatin from 2017 to 2019.

Of the 12, only Asmawil has no government service record.

Eleven of the 12 are Muslims while Anayatin serves as one of two representatives of settler-communities in the BTA.

But there is no woman representative from among the Indigenous Peoples (IP) in the BTA. There was supposed to have been one and she would have been the third IP representative in the BTA — the lone IP woman representative — but she was among the 10 supposedly on the “final list” of appointees who were told a few hours before the February 22 oath-taking in Malacanang, not to proceed to Malacanang anymore.

Two are related to former governors of the ARMM: Maleiha is the daughter of lawyer Zacaria Candao, the first ARMM Governor (1990 – 1993) while Nabila Margarita is the granddaughter of Lininding Pangandaman, the second ARMM Governor (1993 – 1996).


The women in the BTA are expected to carry with them not only women’s issues but their respective advocacies.

MP Laisa Masuhud Alamia, Minority Leader. MindaNews photo by CAROLYN O. ARGUILLAS

Laisa Masuhud Alamia, 47, was ARMM Executive Secretary (the first and only woman to hold that post in the 28-year old ARMM) while serving concurrently as Minister of Social Welfare and Development. As alter ego of the Regional Governor, she exercised overall supervision over all departments and agencies in the region as well as special programs of the Office of the Regional Governor.

A human rights lawyer, Alamia served as legal counsel, pro bono, to Moro victims of human rights violations and was the first chair of the ARMM’s Regional Human Rights Commission (RHRC), her seven-year term cut short when she was named ARMM Executive Secretary. Before RHRC, she had served as OIC-Regional Human Rights Director of the Commission on Human Rights – ARMM Regional Office and before joining the ARMM, was Program Manager of Nisa Ul-Haqq Fi Bangsamoro (Women for Justice in the Bangsamoro) and Project Coordinator of Bangsamoro Lawyers’ Network.

Alamia is also a member of the global Women’s Islamic Initiative in Spirituality and Equality (WISE) and part of WISE’s Global Muslim Women’s Shura Council which issues informed and religiously-grounded opinions on controversial issues of particular relevance to Muslim women, such as Female Genital Cutting, Adoption and the Care of Orphans, Women’s Religious Leadership, and Child Marriages.

She was a consultant on human rights, gender, Islam and women’s rights, local governance, conflict resolution and peace-building, international humanitarian law, research and advocacy, and policy reform.

She graduated Valedictorian in Elementary, High School and College. Complying with her “family’s wish,” she took up nursing at the Ateneo de Zamboanga University, graduated Cum Laude and Class Valedictorian, became a registered nurse, worked in the Intensive Care Unit in a hospital in Saudi Arabia for two years but returned home to “do what I wanted” — take up Law at the Western Mindanao State University in Zamboanga City.

Alamia hails from Basilan but spent several years in the cities of Zamboanga and Cotabato. She was elected Minority Leader during the inaugural session of the BTA on March 29.

MP Baintan Adil Ampatuan, MIndaNews photo by CAROLYN O. ARGUILLAS

Baintan Adil Ampatuan, 49, a multi-awarded public servant, was Executive Director of the Regional Planning and Development Office of the ARMM, and served in concurrent capacities as OIC District Engineer of the Maguindanao 1st Engineering District of the ARMM’s Department of Public Works and Highways; and Project Manager of the ARMM-Humanitarian and Development Assistance Program-Project Management Office under the Office of the Regional Governor.

She is a graduate of Civil Engineering at the Notre Dame University in Cotabato City and finished her Master in Professional Studies-Development Management degree, major in Public Affairs Management at the University of Southern Mindanao in Kabacan, North Cotabato. She is a Maguindanaon based Cotabato City.

MP Susana Salvador Anayatin. Photo courtesy of her FB page

Susana Salvador Anayatin, 66, was a member of the BTC from 2017 to 2019, representing settler communities, the same representation she carries under the BTA.

She has a PhD in Peace and Development and as professor, taught at the Notre Dame University in Cotabato City, Cotabato City State Polytechnic College, and at the Army’s 6th Infantry Division Training School.

Anayatin had earlier served as chief of the Technical Management Service of the ARMM’s Department of Trade and Industry, chair of the National Movement for Free Elections (Namfrel) in Cotabato City and a member of the Gabriela Cotabato City chapter.

MP Muslima Abubakar Asmawil. MindaNews photo by CAROLYN O. ARGUILLAS

Muslima Abubakar Asmawil, 39, calls herself a “multi-tasker.” She has worked as community organizer, cashier and community field officer of the Bangsamoro Development Agency. The MILF nominated her in lieu of her ailing father, a Front Commander of the MILF’s Bangsamoro Islamic Armed Forces. Her husband is a police officer.

She is based in Basilan.



MP Anna Tarhata Sumande Basman. MindaNews photo by CAROLYN O. ARGUILLAS

Anna Tarhata Sumande Basman, 32, was still finishing law at the University of the Philippines’ College of Law when she was recruited by her professor and college dean, Mario Victor Leonen, then chair of the government peace panel negotiating with the MILF, to be a member of the panel’s legal team. She was Research Associate from 2010 to 2012. She headed the team from 2013 to 2016.

She went to the Durham University in the United Kingdom in 2016 to 2017 under the Chevening Scholarship Programme where she finished with a Distinction

mark in Islamic Political Economy, Islamic Management, Islamic Banking and Finance, Risk Management Issues in Islamic Finance, Islamic Accounting, and Islamic Law and Financial Transactions; and a Merit mark in Islamic Capital Markets.

Her dissertation was “Islamic microfinance as a tool for post-conflict economic recovery: Exploring a model framework for the Bangsamoro in Mindanao, Philippines.”

Before her appointment at the BTA, she was legal consultant of the Bangsamoro Transition Commission from January to December 2018; and was Deputy Executive Director of the National Commission on Muslim Filipinos from March to September 2016 before leaving for the United Kingdom scholarship.

Basman finished BA in Public Administration also at UP Diliman and moved over to the College of Law where she graduated in 2011 with a Dean’s Medal for Academic Excellence, Rank 10 of the graduating class. She became a lawyer in 2012.

She hails from Lanao del Sur but has been based in Manila.

MP Maleiha Bajunaid Candao. MindaNews photo by CAROLYN O. ARGUILLAS

Maleiha Bajunaid Candao, 52, is a writer, a former newspaper columnist and later publisher of the now defunct Mindanao Kris community paper in Cotabato City.

From 1990 to 1993, she served as Executive Director of the Office on Cultural Affaris of the ARMM at the time her father, Zacaria, was the first ARMM Governor. Among the things she did as Executive Director was to produce and direct “Sangkultura,” which was aired Sundays for three years. She described “Sangkultura” as “the very first Television program in Central Mindanao that showcased the distinct cultures of the people in the ARMM- the Tausugs, Maranaos, Maguindanaons and the highlanders”

She was educated in Catholic schools in Cotabato City (Notre Dame University), Davao City (Ateneo de Davao University) and Manila (Trinity College of Asia) where she finished AB Psychology, minor in Political Science.

She has masteral units in Public Administration, “with emphasis on strategic planning, control, and coordination” from the Ateneo de Davao. She is from Cotabato City.

Lawyer Raissa Jajurie, BARMM Minister of Social Services.. MindaNews photo by CAROLYN O. ARGUILLAS

Raissa Herradura Jajurie, 52, made history in July 2011, along with Bai Cabaybay Abubakar, President of Shariff Kabunsuan College in Maguindanao, for having been named advisers to the all-male MILF Peace panel.

At that time, the MILF’s decision to take in women advisers was apparently in response to criticisms that it reconstituted yet another all-male panel.

As the talks progressed, Jajurie served as alternate panel member and steered the Technical Working Group on Wealth-sharing for the MILF.

She was named member of the Bangsamoro Transition Commission from 2013 to 2016 and 2017 to 2019.

From 1987 to 2011, Jajurie, worked full-time as labor organizer, researcher, trainer, and lawyer for non-government organizations, providing labor organizing and legal assistance to women, local communities, and marginalized sectors and identities. A human rights lawyer, she headed the alternative law group, Saligan Mindanaw.

Jajurie finished Political Science at the Ateneo de Manila University and Law as the University of the Philippines. She hails from Sulu but has lived in Manila, Davao and has been based in Cotabato City since 2012.

MP Hadja Bainon Guiabar Karon, Chair, Regional Commission on Bangsamoro Women. Photo courtesy of Rep. Bai Sandra Sema’s FB page

Hadja Bainon Guiabar Karon, 66, is an icon among the Bangsamoro women. (see description at the start of this piece).






MP Maisara Dandamun-Latiph. MIndaNews photo by CAROLYN O. ARGUILLAS

Maisara Dandamun-Latiph, 44, served as member of the BTC from 2017 to 2019. Before that she was Senior State Solicitor at the Office of the Solicitor General (OSG) in Manila for 14 years. In 2003, she and her Muslim women friends founded IQRA Kiddie Learning Center Inc. a non-stock and non-profit educational institution in Quiapo, Manila; was co-founder in 2012 of the Khadija Center for Muslim Women Studies dedicated to Muslim Women issues and challenges and in 2014, co-founded Safia Learning Center, Inc. a community preschool in Quezon City.

She has a Public Administration degree from the University of the Philippines and took up Law in San Beda. She is a candidate of Doctor of Philosophy in Educational Administration and Development, also at UP. She has a degree with Merit Honors in Masters in Educational Leadership and School Improvement at the University of Manchester in England under the Chevening Scholarship. She is from Lanao del Sur but grew up in Metro Manila.

MP Sittie Shahara Ibrahim-Mastura Photo courtesy of her FB page

Sittie Shahara Ibrahim-Mastura, 28, is the youngest among the women appointees and second to the youngest in the 98-member BTA.

In her resume, she said she wanted to join the BARMM “where I can apply my knowledge and use my skills” as Gender and Development (GAD) Focal Person of the municipality of Sultan Kudarat, Maguindanao from 2012 to 2013 and “to share my talent and expertise in preparing project proposals – organizing, and implementation like my pet project of the SALAM Barangay Program which I prepared that made our municipality an awardee in 2017.”

“If Sultan Kudarat, Maguindanao can do it, I firmly believe that the Bangsamoro can do it, too, she said.

Ibrahim-Mastura initially took up nursing at the Ateneo de Davao University but graduated with a degree of AB Philosophy at the Notre Dame University in Cotabato City where she also finished Law in 2015. She is a Shari’ah graduate from the same university

MP Nabila Margarita Pacasum Pangandaman, MindaNews photo by CAROLYN O. ARGUILLAS

Nabila Margarita Pacasum Pangandaman, 32 is no stranger to legislative work. She served as Political Affairs Officer at the Office of Rep. Pangalian Balindong (now Speaker of the Bangsamoro Parliament) in 2016. Balindong is her father in law.

Before that, she was Chief Political Affairs Officer from 2010 to 2013 at the Office of Rep. Mohammed Hussein Pangdaman, her brother.

From 2009 to 2010, she worked as Confidential Assistant at the Office of the Board of Directors – Department of Agrarian Reform Land Bank of the Philippines.

Pangandaman, granddaughter of the 2nd ARMM governor, Lininding Pangandaman, and daughter of former Agrarian Reform Secretary Nasser Pangandaman, is a graduate of Humanities with units in Political Economy at the University of Asia and the Pacific. She is from Lanao del Sur.

Engineer Adia Silongan, MP and Minister of Science and Technology . MindaNews photo by CAROLYN O. ARGUILLAS

Aida Macalimpas Silongan, 54, is the lone woman in the MILF Central Committee. She has served the Bangsamoro in several capacities, as Women Sector Representative in the Provincial Political Committee of the MILF in North Cotabato; director of the Bangsamoro Development Agency, lead convener of the Women’s Organization Movement of the Bangsamoro; and Executive Secretary of the National Social Welfare Committee of the MILF.

In 2006, she was Monitoring and Evaluation Officer of the Mindanao Trust Fund-Reconstruction Development Program (MTF-RDP) Phase 1 at the Bangsamoro Development Agency Central Management Office, then subsequently became its Program Manger. In 2010, she was the BDA’s Program Management Officer of the Community Development for Conflict Affected Aras in Mindanao. She also served as Chief Executive Officer of the Al Amanah Humanitarian and Development Service.

Silongan worked in government, too. She was Assistant Municipal Planning and Development Coordinator of the municipality of Matalam in North Cotabato in 1986 and from 1987 to 1992, served as Engineer at the National Irrigation Administration’s Alip River Irrigation Project. From there she served as Project Manager at Ri-ann Construction and Supply in Kabacan, North Cotabato, and later as managing officer/proprietress of Ash Construction and Supply in Matalam. She is a Maguindanaon who hails from Matalam, North Cotabato.

Plus four

The four elected Assemblywomen who are serving the BTA until noon of June 30, 2019 have served one or two terms as ARMM legislators.

MP Nedra Sahial Burahan.
Photo courtesy of her FB page

Nedra Sahial Burahan, 51, of the 1st district of Sulu is a nurse but has been active in politics, having served as mayor of Hadji Panglima Tahil for three three-year terms, from 2001 to 2010 and as ARMM Assemblywoman for two terms: 2013 to 2016 and 2016 to 2019.

She was appointed Assemblywoman from 2012 to 2013 while the ARMM was in transition. At that time, the ARMM election in 2011 was called off and synchronized with the May 2013 polls so the Governor, Vice Governor and 24 members of the RLA were appointed to serve from December 2011 to June 30, 2013.

In the May 2013 polls, she ran for and won, the same position she was appointed to, and was re-elected in May 2019.

Until June 30 this year, the BTA has a husband-and-wife team. Nedra’s husband, Abraham Tahil Burahan, is an appointed MP who served as mayor of Hadji Panglima Tahil from 1995 to 2001, ARMM Assemblyman from 2002 to 2008, three-term mayor since 2010 and Secretary-General of the Municipal Mayors League. Abraham’s appointment as MP is until June 30, 2022.

Nedra finished her Elementary and High School at the Pilar College in Zamboanga City and nursing at the Galang Medical Center in the same city.

MP Rudjia Halud Anni. Photo courtesy of her FB page

Rudjia Halud Anni of the 2nd district of Sulu is a nurse who has served as ARMM Assemblywoman for two terms: 2013 to 2016 and 2016.

Her husband, Abdel Sangkula Anni, is a former Sulu Vice Governor who also served as ARMM Assemblyman and Siasi Vice Mayor.

In the May 2019 polls, Rudjia is running for vice mayor while her husband is running for mayor of Siasi town under the Nacionalista Party. 


MP Pearl Joy Laud Piang. Photo courtesy of her FB page

Pearl Joy Laud Piang, 32,  the 2nd district of Maguindanao was elected Assemblywoman in 2016. She worked as a paralegal at the Torreon and Partners law firm immediately after graduating from Law school in 2013 and from  there joined the staff of her cousin, Maguindanao Rep. Zajid Mangudadatu.Another cousin, Khadafeh Mangudadatu, a two-term ARMM Assemblyman from the same district, was appointed to the BTA and will serve until June 2022.

Piang is the daughter of former ARMM Assemblyman Datu Tunggal Piang.


MP Irene Tillah. Photo courtesy of her FB page

Irene Tillah, 55, also of the 2nd district of Sulu is a nurse and former Dean of the College of Nursing of Mariam School of Nursing in Lamitan, Basilan.

Before that, Tillah was President of Cyberhit Technology and a School Director of AMA Computer Learning Center.

Although a minority in the BTA, the 16 women MPs are expected to participate actively in the affairs of the Parliament and be the voices of those who want their issues raised before the Parliament. (Carolyn O. Arguillas /MindaNews)
This piece is part of a series on Women in the Bangsamoro, produced by MindaNews with support from the Embassy of Canada)