COTABATO CITY (MindaNews / 8 June) – To ensure smooth transition of the current autonomous set up into the expected new political entity in Mindanao, military and civil officials met here Wednesday and mapped out plans, programs and systems to avoid a political vacuum that might be used by extremists to advance their interests.
It is just a matter of time that the new political entity will be set up, once the proposed Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) is enacted into law.
Congress’s bicameral committee is set to reconcile the House and Senate versions of the bill and expected to be approved by the President before his State of the Nation Address.
The upcoming law is the product of the government peace initiatives with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) and the enabling law of the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro signed by the government and MILF in 2014.
ARMM Gov. Mujiv Hataman has repeatedly declared that he and current ARMM officials are ready to take the sideline to allow the new political entity, whose political name is yet to be officially known, to lead the way.
With that already in the bag, ARMM officials, the security sector and the international non-government organizations, the current region’s partners in development, gathered here to map out plans of action for a smooth transition.
Stakeholders met and discussed, during a conference at the ARMM executive building, the mechanism of transfer of power from current ARMM leadership to the new one.
The meeting also aimed at ensuring continuity of peace and development projects already in place that were put up to cushion the impact of decades of armed conflict, poverty and natural disasters.
Bai Intan Ampatuan, designated head of the ARMM transition team, said the transition period should not affect programs that have benefitted the regional constituents.
She said ARMM have been implementing programs and projects that will deter extremism, including livelihood and education in the region’s poorest communities for they are vulnerable to recruitment by the proponents of violent extremism.
Lawyer Laisa Alamia, ARMM executive secretary, said the regional government, once the transition period begins, would turn over all information, programs, projects, government properties.
“When the new Bangsamoro political entity is set up, we will turn over all the region’s assets and liabilities,” Alamia said. She added that the regional government is also taking into consideration the possible implication, if any, of the abolition of the current regional set up.
On top of the administrative and political powers, the issue of regional security in the context of the Marawi siege was also thoroughly discussed.
Military officials and Mindanao analysts say the ISIS-inspired armed groups in Mindanao, the major players in the bloody Marawi siege, are now recruiting and regrouping in southern Philippines.
The possibility that spoilers of the peace process would take center stage during the transition period was also discussed.
Brig. Gen. Cirilito Sobejana, 6th Infantry Division commander who was present during the conference, said the transition period is crucial because the extremists might take advantage and create noise anew.
“We need to work together to avoid some issues to come up,” Sobejana said, referring to security issues.
He cited an example in explaining the scenario. He likened the regional government to a broken vehicle where the extremists and saboteurs could take advantage of.
Sobejana stressed “anticipation” in a given situation is very vital. “In the military, we have what we call fogs of war which means an unexpected huge thing happens and you will be surprised, so we have to be prepared,” he said in mixed Filipino and English.
The 6ID chief said the security sector is prepared for a worst case scenario and the possible moves of those who are not satisfied with the new political entity and the extremist groups.
He stressed the importance of cooperation among the security sector, the civil government leaders and the international NGO partners during transition period.
More similar focused discussions are scheduled in the coming days as the arrival of a new political government is fast approaching. (Ferdinandh Cabrera / MindaNews)