OPAPP to apologize to Sevilla and others dropped from the BTA list

DAVAO CITY (MindaNews / 03 March) – Presidential Peace Adviser Carlito Galvez, Jr. on Sunday said his office will issue a written apology to Tawi-tawi professor and civil society leader Arlene Navales-Sevilla who took her oath as member of the Bangsamoro Transition Authority (BTA) on February 22 in Malacanang but whose appointment paper was not among those released by Malacanang on February 27.

“We will make a written apology to her and the others for the unfortunate incident. Undersecretary Glo Mercado is trying to communicate with her and currently working to meet her as soon as practicable,” Galvez told MindaNews in a text message.

He said Sevilla is back in Tawi-tawi. “We are fixing our schedules now,” he said.

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

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, and a core member of the Anak Mindanao Provincial Team, told MindaNews on Saturday that Galvez or other officials of the Office of the Presidential Adviser on Peace, Reconciliation and Unity (formerly Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process or OPAPP), had not communicated with her since February 27 when she asked Assistant Secretary Acel Papa why her name was not on the list of BTA members reported by the media.

The media reports based the list of 76 members from the appointment papers dated February 22 but released by Malacanang only on February 27. Sevilla’s appointment paper was not among the 76 released. Instead, the appointment papers of four new members were released along with 71 of those who took their oath in Malacanang and the 41st nominee of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front who was unable to attend as she was recuperating from an ailment.

Seventy-two members of the BTA – 40 of 41 nominated by the MILF and 32 of 39 nominated by government, including Sevilla, took their oath in Malacanang on February 22.

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

Sevilla said Papa assured her on February 27 that she would look into the matter of her appointment paper but since then, no one from the OPAPP had communicated with her.

“Only silence,” Sevilla told MindaNews in Davao City on Saturday before leaving for Tawi-tawi via Zamboanga. Sevilla attended a conference in Davao City on monitoring mining operations in Mindanao.

“I deserve an explanation,” she said.


When Galvez said they will “make a written apology to her and the others for the unfortunate incident,” the “others” he was referring to are the 10 government nominees who, like Sevilla, had been vetted and cleared and were supposed to be on the “final” list. The 10 were stricken off the list barely four hours to their 2 p.m. call time in Malacanang.

Some of them were already on their way to Malacanang or were preparing to leave for Malacanang when they were told not to proceed anymore.

Sevilla said that when she learned three of her fellow nominees were taken out of the list, she thought of changing her cultural attire into casual clothes and just spend the afternoon with her daughters but she received a text message to proceed to Malacanang.

Sevilla learned from a colleague in the peace advocacy circles who got in touch with Galvez that the Presidential Peace Adviser 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.”

President Rodrigo Duterte himself told reporters after the oathtaking that there were changes made. He told reporters he was late because “may hinabol sila na late. May in-exchange” (They were trying to include some people. They exchanged). He was not referring to the Galvez’ office but the Office of the President.

Last Friday, exactly a week after she took her oath as BTA member, and two days after Malacanang released the 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.”

Asked to comment on Galvez’ statement that his office would issue a written letter of apology to her and the “others” who were dropped from the final BTA list, Sevilla replied: “I have been waiting for a written explanation as to why my name was not included in the list that the OP released last Wednesday, February 27, 2019 and for them to man up for their mistake, if ever a “mistake” was unconsciously committed, much more if the mistake was intentionally done to accommodate political nominee who didn’t undergo the vetting process but was appointed because of commitment to deliver votes, even if they knew the documents of the appointee were Quiapo-made” and there were allegations the nominee was a pusher of illegal drugs.

Sevilla said it is “very impossible” that this vital information about this nominee “would go unnoticed under their strictest supervision” considering that the nominees were supposed to have gone through the scrutiny of five committees.

Sevilla also asked if the OPAPP would issue a “generic apology letter.”

“Why would they (issue) a written apology to me and others when the others’ case was far too different from my case? Will it be a generic apology letter?” she asked.

The “others” were supposed to be in Malacanang for the oathtaking but were told not to proceed shortly before noon. Sevilla was told to proceed to Malacanang and in fact took her oath and even stood beside Galvez and President Duterte in the photo session of Batch 3 of the BTA members. (Carolyn O. Arguillas / MindaNews)

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