COTABATO CITY (MindaNews / 18 January) – The Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM) kicked off Monday the week-long celebration for its second anniversary on Thursday, 21 January, unveiling its official flag and hymn amid a rainy morning due to a low pressure area 100 kilometers southwest from here.
The Bangsamoro flag was hoisted along with the Philippine flag at the Bangsamoro Government Center (BGC), with Bangsamoro government Interim Chief Minister Ahod Balawag Ebrahim leading the ceremonies.
Outside the BGC, Bangsamoro flaglets and colorful pandalas dotted the road. A group of men riding in motorcycles paraded towards the city’s main streets waving the official flag of the Bangsamoro region.
Ceremonial flag raising activities were conducted simultaneously in several local government units, schools and other government offices across the region.
This year’s theme is “Moral Governance: Building Strong Foundations for a Better Bangsamoro.”
Ebrahim, also the chair of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) and popularly known by his nom de guerre of Al Haj Murad Ebrahim, paid tribute to their thousands of martyrs who made the supreme sacrifice towards the realization of the Bangsamoro region.
“(The creation of the Bangsamoro region is the result of) the tears, sweat and blood of our martyrs. For the first time we hoisted the Bangsamoro flag next to Philippine flag. Allahu Akbar, Allahu Akbar, Allahu Akbar (God is the greatest)! We can now proudly say that we have achieved “genuine autonomy that encapsulates the long history of the Bangsamoro people,” he said.
With his leadership anchored on “moral governance,” Ebrahim stressed that this should not only be a tagline but a discipline and a principle to live by every government worker and citizen of the region.
“Many of us speak of moral governance but the real challenge is how to live with it. Our success will lie on how we can change to a better system. If we cannot deliver, then we are nothing,” he said.
The Bangsamoro region was created with the ratification of Republic Act 11054 or the Organic Law for the BARMM, popularly known as the Bangsamoro Organic Law, during the plebiscites on January 21, 2019 and February 6, 2019.
Chapter 2, Section 10 of the Bangsamoro Administrative Code states that January 21 is proclaimed as the Bangsamoro Foundation Day and declared a non-working holiday “in celebration of the establishment of the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region, which shall be celebrated in recognition of the dreams and aspiration of the people to chart their social, political, cultural and economic destiny in exercise of their right to self-determination.”
The creation of the Bangsamoro region is the major component of the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro (CAB), the final peace deal between the government and the MILF after 17 years of negotiations. It was inked in 2014 during the previous Aquino administration.
During his speech, Ebrahim reiterated his call to extend the term of the region’s governing body, the Bangsamoro Transition Authority, which is set to end on June 30, 2022, to give them time to implement the provisions of the CAB.
President Rodrigo Duterte has expressed support for the extension of the transition period for another three years.
BARMM executive secretary Abdulraof “ Sammy Gambar” Macacua said the extension of the transition period “will allow them to develop their own Bangsamoro narrative.”
Several activities were launched Monday by the different government agencies for the four-day anniversary celebration.
Education Minister Mohagher Iqbal led the symbolic turnover of 100,000 pieces of BARMM-designed armchairs to several schools in the region.
Ebrahim, together with Macacua and Interior and Local Government Minister Naguib Sinarimbo, led the symbolic distribution of relief goods, wheel chairs and vehicles for disaster response.
The three also signed the memorandum of agreement (MOA) on the support to local government units’ infrastructure projects in Maguindanao province, particularly in the municipalities of Talayan, Sultan Kudarat, Datu Blah Sinsuat and South Upi.
Ebahim, Macacua and Sinarimbo also signed a MOA with the Cotabato City State Polytechnic College on the BARMM government’s assistance to indigent students.
They also led the signing of an executive order on the creation of the Salam Bangsamoro program, which is intended to provide livelihood assistance to members of the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters who have returned to the fold of law.
For the rest of the week-long celebration, BARMM’s different ministries have also prepared several activities.
To name just a few, the Ministry of Health is conducting synchronized medical and surgical missions to all provinces and cities in the BARMM, including the 63 barangays in North Cotabato that voted for inclusion, and will hold a ceremonial handing over of critical equipment and supplies for safer cold chain management; the Ministry of Labor and Employment will conduct jobs fair; the Education Ministry will hold a ceremonial awarding of P25,000 subsidy grant for Madaris and checks to the Access to Higher and Modern Education scholars; the Ministry of Finance, Budget and Management will hold a budget information campaign; and, the Ministry of Public Order and Safety will conduct inter-faith dialogues
The provincial governments of Maguindanao, Lanao del Sur, Basilan, Sulu, and Tawi-Tawi, as well as the 63 barangays in North Cotabato, will also hold their own activities to commemorate BARMM’s founding anniversary.