COTABATO CITY (MindaNews / 15 September) – “To find peace, the power of love for the Bangsamoro must prevail over the love for power, love for wealth and love for fame. Only when we work together can we achieve our goal for peace,” civil society organizations in the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM) said in an open letter to the 80-member Bangsamoro Transition Authority (BTA) on Wednesday, a day before the inaugural session of the Parliament.
The letter, signed by Guiamel Alim, chair of the Consortium of Bangsamoro Civil Society (CBCS), reminded the Members of Parliament (MPs) that durable solutions emanate from people who work together.
“This is not for us; this is for our children and the generations to come. This is the time to talk to each other, not about each other or against each other. Prove to all and sundry that with the available opportunities, you can make things happen. Show to the rest of country that indeed, with the opportunity, time, space and resources, you can make things easier to chart a better future for your people,” Alim wrote. The letter is titled “An Appeal for Unity, Solidarity and Common Actions for a Peaceful Transition and Beyond.”
The letter noted that the unity meetings among leaders of the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) who led the revolution and fought for the Bangsamoro “are now given the opportunity to run our government.”
The MILF-led BTA has 80 members, 41 of them nominated by the MILF and 39 by government (GPH). Of the 80 members, 55 are from the Moro liberation fronts – 41 from the MILF, seven from the MNLF under Muslimin Sema and seven from the MNLF under Nur Misuari. It is the first time Misuari’s MNLF is participating in the MILF peace process. The Sema group was represented in the Bangsamoro Transition Commission from 2017 to 2019 and BTA1 or the BTA under the Duterte administration, from 2019 to 2022.
Among the 80 Members of Parliament (MPs) are at 15 sons and daughters of Moro revolutionary leaders, field commanders and members of the peace negotiating panel. Sixteen of the 80 are women.
The transition period was supposed to be from 2019 to June 30, 2022 when the first set of elected officials shall have taken their oaths of office. It was extended by law to another three years or until June 30, 2025 when it postponed the May 2022 election of the 80-member Bangsamoro Parliament to May 2025.
The letter also cited the composition of the new BTA. Aside from the 55 nominated by the Moro liberation fronts, the BTA has representatives from Indigenous Peoples, settlers and civil society, among others.
The combined wisdom of the revolutionary organizations and of those from the different sectoral representatives in the BTA and the support from international development partners and the local CSOs, it said, “can make a difference in this extended transition,” it said.
The letter appealed to the BTA to “put your acts together for the sake of the people in the Bangsamoro” as it reminded the MPs that the tasks ahead are “gargantuan” and that in spite of the initial economic growth experienced under the BARMM, the region is still “the lowest in the development threshold.”
“The threats to peace and security are still around. Your constituents – your people have high expectations from you. We need to overcome all these challenges to pave the way for a political environment conducive to pursuing peace and development,” the letter said, adding that the road to recovery and sustainable peace “remains long and winding, as we continue to face the challenges of inequitable access to dwindling resources, poverty, disunity within our communities, exacerbated by repeated disasters, pandemic and climate change.”
The letter also urged the BTA to work in solidarity towards passing relevant laws and programs to uplift the life of the people in the Bangsamoro; promote inclusive development so that no one is left behind; fight and resist corruption so that the resources intended for the well-being of the people are safeguarded; strictly follow the provisions of the ethics of good governance; put public service first before self; work towards building social cohesion, inter-tribal unity and promote justice, tolerance and understanding towards healing, reconciliation and national unity; listen to the legitimate grievances of the people, especially the poor.
It also appealed to the national government to “sustain the gains of the peace process by faithfully abiding with the terms of the peace agreement even as we implore the sincerity of the MILF and MNLF to make their share;” fast-track the rehabilitation and reconstruction of all areas destroyed by wars.
It also urged armed groups and political leaders in the region “to give the political environment conducive for the people in the BTA to do their job.”
It also appealed to all parties to “aggressively implement the provisions of the Normalization under the Peace Agreement.”
It challenged the MPs to “show to the rest of the country that, indeed, you are the right choice in the BTA.”
The letter noted that reconstruction from the physical, economic and social fabric torn apart as a result of decades of violent conflicts “require us to think out of the box and solidify government’s convergence approach to inclusive development.”
“There are no quick fixes. Our problems are systemic and inter-generational. We are still recovering from lost opportunities, eradicating prejudices and discrimination within our region and between our people and peoples of other faiths, cultures and religions so that we can foster healing and reconciliation,” the letter added.
It acknowledged that “perfecting the art of good governance and remolding values are ongoing challenges” especially since the BTA is a trailblazer as it is the lone autonomous region among 17 regions in the country and adopts a parliamentary form of government within the current Presidential system.
“It is an opportunity as well as a challenge, with the National Government as well as other regions looking at how you translate your political will into good governance,” the letter said, adding that the parliamentary form of governance is meant “to address our clamor for the right to determine our own socio-political-economic development.”
As CSOs journeying with the BTA, “we put our trust and hope that you can overcome the various differences that divide us and work for the common good for the Bangsamoro.”
The transition period, it added, “is an opportunity to strengthen solidarity and unity of purpose.”
“We pin our trust that the BTA can pursue its tasks to complete the transition process, requiring each honorable member of this august body to overcome personal interests and find common grounds for collaboration,” it said.
The letter stressed that CSOs will continue to accompany the work for peace as it offered “our organizations for constructive and peaceful engagements and partnership without losing our inherent role as watch groups.”
“If in unity and solidarity, you were able to achieve a high level of self-determination, it is also through unity and acting together that you will also achieve the ultimate goal of peace and development. Into your hands, we entrust the well-being of our people. Do all your best (Jihad) and God will do the rest,” the CSOs letter said.
The BTA is holding its inaugural session on Thursday. President Ferdinand Marcos, Jr. will address the transition body in his first Mindanao visit since he assumed the post on June 30, 2022. (Carolyn O. Arguillas / MindaNews)