Bangsamoro’s extended transition starts; at OPAPRU, still no peace adviser, no OIC 

DAVAO CITY (MindaNews / 04 July) – The extended transition period in the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM) started at noon of June 30 with the remaining members of the Bangsamoro Transition Authority (BTA) continuing to hold office as then President Rodrigo Duterte opted not to appoint new members and President Ferdinand Marcos has not made any new appointment.                        

Republic Act 11593 extended the transition period that would have ended on June 30, 2022, for three more years or until June 30, 2025, by resetting the first election of the 80-member Bangsamoro Parliament from May 2022 to May 2025. 

The seat of power in the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao in Cotabato City, 22 September 2021. MindaNews photo by GREGORIO BUENO

The law provides under Section 2 that during the extension of the transition period, the BTA, the body tasked to govern the BARMM in transition, “shall continue as the interim government,” provided that the President “may appoint the eighty (80) new interim members of the BTA who shall serve up to June 30, 2025 or until their successors shall have been elected and qualified.”

“The language of law is permissive: ‘may appoint,’ said lawyer Naguib Sinarimbo, the BARMM’s Minister of the Interior and Local Government and concurrent spokesperson of the Bangsamoro Government. 

“This permissive language applies both to then President Duterte and nowPresident Marcos. The current President may appoint but if he does not appoint yet, the BTA members now will continue to serve to avoid vacuum in governance,” he told MindaNews early Monday morning. 

No Peace Adviser, no OIC 

MindaNews checked with the Office of the Presidential Adviser on Peace, Reconciliation and Unity (formerly Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process) but President Ferdinand Marcos has not named a Peace Adviser and OPAPRU sources could not point to MindaNews who the OIC is. “Mag-feedback ako after the meeting,” “we are still waiting for the announcement,” were the answers. 

MindaNews also checked with former Peace Adviser Carlito Galvez but he has not replied.

Another issue that needs to be checked with the Peace Adviser or the OIC in the OPAPRU is Memorandum Circular 1, issued by Executive Secretary Vic Rodriguez on June 30, which has caused a bit of confusion in the autonomous region on the status of the appointees of then President Rodrigo Duterte. 

MC1 declared as vacant “certain positions in the departments, offices, agencies and bureaus in the Executive Department” effective noon of June 30, including “all Presidential appointees whose appointments are classified as co-terminous.”

But Sinarimbo said the BTA is not covered by the MC1 because “we are not part of the executive department. We are an autonomous region. In fact the BTA under the Organic Law relates to the Legislature through the Bangsamoro Parliament Congress Forum.”

The President’s role in the autonomous region, according to RA 11054 or the Organic Law for the BARMM, is to “exercise general supervision over the Bangsamoro Government to ensure that laws are faithfully executed.”

As provided for by the 2014 Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro, the peace pact signed by government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), the BTA is MILF-led. 

Duterte appointed 80 members, 41 of them nominated by the MILF and 39 by the government. 

74 of 80

Only 74 Members of Parliament (MPs) have remained as of noon of June 30 as one died last year and five others were elected to various posts in the May 9 elections.

After Aleem Mohammad Zainoden Bato of  Lanao del Sur passed away last year, his seat remained vacant. No new appointment was made. 

Members of the Bangsamoro Transition Authority discuss the fate of the proposed Bangsamoro Administrative Code during a special session at the Shariff Kabunsuan Complex in Cotabato City on 28 October 2020, complete with face masks and shields as the whole world deals with the spread of COVID-19. MindaNews photo by FERDINANDH CABRERA

Five MPs were elected to other posts in the autonomous region: Al-Syed Abdullah Sali is now Vice Governor of Tawi-Tawi;  Khadafeh Gaguil Mangudadatu is mayor of Pandag, Maguindanao; Tocao Mastura is mayor of Sultan Kudarat town in Maguindanao; Zia Alonto Adiong is 1st district Representative of Lanao del Sur; and Sittie Shahara  Ibrahim Mastura is 1st  district  Representative of Maguindanao. 

Status quo: continuity and stability 

In October 2021, a few days before  RA 11593 was signed into law by President Duterte, the Security, Justice, and Peace Cabinet Cluster recommended to him to maintain the status quo on the current composition of the BTA, based on the BTA Parliament’s Resolution 173 which appealed to the President to allow the incumbent members of the BTA to continue in service until 2025 by giving “primary consideration in their appointment.”

The resolution noted that a “disruption of service which could have an unintended adverse effect of restarting the whole operations can be avoided by recognizing the importance of the continuity and stability of the transition.”

The appointment of new members, it said, “may possibly delay the accomplishment of the mandates of the BTA Parliament like the passage of priority codes and other important legislations as it will entail new learnings, skills and knowledge as to the rudiments of the parliamentary system of governance.”

On February 15, 2022, the BTA passed Resolution No. 209 reiterating its earlier appeal for re-appointment of incumbent BTA members to avoid a disruption of service, among others. 

In a memorandum on March 3, Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdea, citing  “exigency of public service” and in accordance with Section 2 of RA 11593, said “the request to maintain the current composition of the BTA is approved” and that incumbent members of the BTA “shall continue in office in a holdover capacity, until otherwise directed by the Office of the President.”

MindaNews sources said among the reasons why Duterte opted against making new appointments is the “huge number” of applicants for the 39 slots of government nominees in the BTA.

President Rodrigo Roa Duterte smiles after sounding the gong to signal the inauguration of the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM) at the Shariff Kabunsuan Cultural Complex in Cotabato City on March 29, 2019, marking what he said was a “new dawn” for the Moro.’ Joining the President is BARMM interim Chief Minister Ahod Balawag Ebrahim, more popularly known by his nom de guerre in the MILF, Al Haj Murad Ebrahim. PRESIDENTIAL PHOTO

President Marcos, who took his oath of office on June 30, has not made any appointment of BTA members.  

The office of the Peace Adviser screens the nominees for government’s 39 seats in the BTA and ensures the documents required of the 41 MILF nominees in the BTA are complied with.

Marcos has not named his Peace Adviser. 

Exit Agreement 

The BARMM is the third autonomous region in Muslim Mindanao but the first to adopt a parliamentary system in a highly-centralized Presidential system of government.  

Its transition process involves not just the BARMM itself but the national government as there are deliverables under the Organic Law that involve the national government. 

The Bangsamoro law mandates the BTA to “ensure the accomplishment of the following priorities during the transition period” – Administrative Code, Revenue Code, Electoral Code, Local Government Code, and Education Code.

It is also tasked to pass a Civil Service Code and the Indigenous Peoples Code.

The BTA has passed the Administrative Code, Education Code and Civil Service Code. The Local Government Code is pending with the Parliament while the Electoral Code is still at the Cabinet level. 

According to the peace agreement, the government and MILF, along with the Malaysian facilitator of the GPH-MILF peace talks, and the Third Party Monitoring Team, shall, at the end of the transition period, “convene a meeting to review, assess or evaluate the implementation of all agreements and the progress of the transition.”

The end of the extended transition period is at noon of June 30, 2025 when the first set of elected officials of the 80-member Bangsamoro Parliament shall have taken their oath of office. 

The peace agreement also states that an exit document “officially terminating the peace negotiation may be crafted and signed by both parties if and only when all agreements have been fully implemented.” (Carolyn O. Arguillas / MindaNews)

Marcos  still mum on peace agenda; has yet to name Peace Adviser