MANILA (MindaNews / 20 February) – From February 21 to February 20 and finally, February 22.
The oathtaking of 80 members of the Bangsamoro Transition Authority (BTA), initially targeted for February 21 and reset to February 20 on February 15, was rescheduled to February 22 evening of February 19, when the possible Presidential appointees and other guests from the Bangsamoro areas have all arrived.
The Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process (OPAPP) had earlier sent out invitations to the February 20 oathtaking and “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.
Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process Carlito Galvez, Jr. confirmed evening of February 19 that the February 20 event had been rescheduled two days later.
Mohagher Iqbal, chair of the Peace Implementing Panel of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), said he received a message about the postponement from Galvez at 7:07 p.m. on February 19 allegedly because the signing of appointments has not been finished.
As of 4 p.m. Thursday, the names of the appointees have yet to be divulged although some of the nominees – from both government and the MILF – could be seen at the lobby of the Manila Prince Hotel where part of the MILF delegation is billeted.
Galvez and Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana welcomed the MILF delegation with a dinner Wednesday. Galvez returned to the hotel Thursday morning for a series of meetings that as of 4 p.m. had not been finished.
The MILF, which will lead the BTA in the three-year transition until June 30, 2022, nominated 41 to the BTA while government nominated 39.
The Framework Agreement on the Bangsamoro on October 15, 2012 and the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro on March 27, 2014 signed by government and the MILF paved the way for the creation of a new autonomous political entity that would replace the 28-year-old Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM).
RA 11054 named the new entity as the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM).
The MILF has a 300-member delegation attending the oathtaking of the members of the interim government for which they waged an armed struggle to assert their right to self-determination.
Among the delegation is the MILF Central Committee headed by Al Haj Murad Ebrahim, chair of the MILF and commander in chief of the soon-to-be-decommissioned Bangsamoro Islamic Armed Forces (BIAF), BIAF chief of staff Sammy Al-Mansour, Iqbal, Bangsamoro Transition Commission chair Ghazali Jaafar.
Also present are five of the MILF’s seven front commanders, including Abdullah Macapaar alias Kumander Bravo of the Lanao del Norte-based North Western Mindanao Command and Akmad Abas alias Kumander Jack of the Pikit, North Cotabato-based Eastern Mindanao Front.
Iqbal said two front commanders could not make it due to illness.
He said base commanders are also here to witness the historic event.
Safe conduct passes have been issued by the government to allow for the commanders who may have pending cases, to attend, Iqbal said.
The MILF nominees to the BTA include members of the Central Committee and officials of the BIAF.
Murad defended the MILF’s decision to include front commanders in the BTA.
“Ang BTA is transition of the MILF from revolutionary to governance. The main target of transformation is the MILF top leadership both holding political and military assignments. The Central Committee is the top political leadership and in the military, the highest level of Commanders and that is the Chief of Staff and the Front Commanders. In a revolutionary organization, there is no distinction between civilian and military. All are revolutionaries. So in governance, there is no distinction between those holding political or military assignments. All can participate. In fact, many of those holding military positions were political officers before. Likewise many of those in the political positions came from the military wing,” Murad said.
Murad was Vice Chair for Military Affairs and Chief of Staff of the BIAF when Salamat Hashim was chair and commander in chief. He served concurrently as MILF peace panel chair when peace talks resumed in 2001 after then President Joseph Estrada’s “all out war” against the MILF in 2000. Murad served as peace panel chair until July 2003 when Hashim died and he succeeded as chair. Iqbal succeeded Murad as peace panel chair. (Carolyn O. Arguillas / MindaNews)