BTA sessions resume nearly a month after inauguration

DAVAO CITY (MindaNews / 21 April) – The Bangsamoro Transition Authority (BTA) resumes sessions on April 22, 23 and 24 in Cotabato City, nearly a month after its March 29 inauguration.

Interim Chief Minister Ahod “Al Haj Murad” Ebrahim told MindaNews Sunday that the agenda of the three-day sessions will be “the adoption of internal rules, organization of committees and initial report of those assigned on the different Codes and selected other matters to e presented.”

The BTA is the governing body of the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM) during the three-year transition period until June 30, 2022, when the first set of elected officials shall have taken over.

Interim Chief Minister Ahod Balawag Ebrahim of the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao delivers his inaugural address Friday morning, 29 March 2019 at the Shariff Kabunsuan Cultural Complex inside the BARMM Compound in Cotabato City. MIndaNews photo by CAROLYN O. ARGUILLAS

April 22 is exactly two months since the BTA members took their oath of office before President Rodrigo Duterte in Malacanang, 24 days since the inaugural session on March 29 and 55 days since the turnover from the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) to the BARMM on February 26 at the Shariff Kabunsuan Cultural Complex in the BARMM compound in Cotabato City.

Ebrahim said they are reckoning the 60-day deadline for submission of the transition plan not from February 26 but from March 29.

Republic Act 11054 or the Organic Law creating the BARMM mandates the interim Chief Minister under Section 6 of Article 16, to submit to the BTA “within the first 60 days of the transition period,” a transition plan that shall contain the “proposed organizational plan, as well as, the schedule for implementation therefor.”

The law also provides that the BTA, by a majority vote of all its members, shall “approve or otherwise act on the proposed transition plan within ten days upon submission;” that if the transition plan is not acted upon within 60 days, it shall be deemed approved and implemented within 15 days.

If reckoned from March 29, as Murad said it would be, the 60-day deadline for submission of the transition plan would be on May 28.

Within this period, Ramadan, the month-long fasting among Muslims, is expected to begin on May 6. But Murad told MindaNews, “Kahit Ramadan, pwede naman mag-session” (We can still have sessions during Ramadan).

President Rodrigo Roa Duterte delivers his speech during the inauguration of the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM) at the Shariff Kabunsuan Cultural Complex in Cotabato City on March 29, 2019. ROBINSON NIÑAL JR./PRESIDENTIAL PHOTO

Priority legislations

The BTA is also tasked to enact, during the transition period, ”priority legislations” such as the Bangsamoro Administrative Code, Bangsamoro Revenue Code, Bangsamoro Electoral Code, Bangsamoro Local Government Code, and Bangsamoro Education Code consistent with powers and prerogatives vested in the Bangsamoro Government .

The BTA is also mandated to enact a Bangsamoro Civil Service Code as well as a law to recognize, protect, promote, and preserve the rights of the Indigenous Peoples in the BARMM, their rights “promoted, protected, and enforced by the Ministry of Indigenous People’s Affairs.”

The law also provides that “other offices on youth, women, settler communities, disaster risk reduction and management, and planning and development, among others, may be created by the BTA.

The BTA is supposed to be composed of 80 members during the three-year transition period but President Duterte has appointed only 76, one of whom died on March 13 – Ghazali Jaafar, the 1st Vice Chair of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF).

The Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro (CAB), the peace agreement signed by government and the MILF in March 2014, provides that the BTA will be MILF-led. The MILF nominated 41 members to the BTA while government nominated 40, including representatives from the Moro National Liberation Front.

The MILF has nominated Jaafar’s eldest son to take over his seat. President Duterte has yet to appoint him and four more nominees from government.

As of April 21, the BTA is composed of 98 members — 75 appointees who will serve until June 30, 2022, and 23 elected officials of the ARMM who will serve until June 30, 2019, when their three-year terms of office shall have expired.

The ARMM had 26 elected officials: Governor, Vice Governor and 24 district representatives. One of the representatives died in office, leaving only 25. But the last governor, Mujiv Hataman, opted to resign from the BTA to focus on Basilan where he is running for the lone congressional seat, while Assemblyman Khadafeh Mangudadatu was appointed member of the BTA, leaving only 23 in the BTA. (Carolyn O. Arguillas / MindaNews)