3 years is not enough


Ali G. Macabalang

The 80-member interim governing body called Bangsamoro Transition Authority (BTA) of the fledgling Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM) cannot by all means, without Divine intervention, fully flesh out the two-track intents of the 2014 Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) final peace accord with the government.

I am certain of this notion, especially so that the interim BARMM governance is expected to build stronger foundation for autonomy better than of its predecessor – the 29-year old Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM).

Perceived malfeasances in the ARMM government ranging from alleged mishandling of public funds to sale of items positions in the education department and other regional offices are just part of the MILF-led BARMM regime to think in building a better autonomous bureaucracy. Another major concern is how the government and the MILF can fully decommission and transform to civilian productive life the latter’s 14-strong revolutionary forces.

The BTA has just enacted the regional administrative code and education code, and is working under pressures amid adversities of their infancy, the COVID-19 pandemic challenges and ill-effects of intermittent man-made and natural calamities in crafting other ordinances required for full-blown regional autonomous governance.

The local governance code, the civil service code and other regional necessary laws are still under deliberation. And without the passage and implementation of such laws, BARMM governance cannot be better than ARMM.

The interim regional government is steered by MILF officials and supporters, who have admitted their need for more exposure to and trainings for career services.

It took decades for Prophet Mohammad (s.a.w.), a Divine personality, to reform Arabia and the rest of the world from ignorance of faith and idolatries.

The current officials of BARMM, therefore, cannot be expected to translate to realities the provisions of the 2014 Comprehensive Agreement on Bangsamoro.

In fairness to the MILF, it had bargained for six-year transition for regional government in the original draft of bill for the creation of new autonomy.

Unfortunately, the draft Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) was shelved in Congress following a public outrage over the death of 44 terrorist-hunting police commandos in Mamasapano, Maguindanao on January 25, 2015 under the watch of then President Noynoy Aquino..

The succeeding Duterte government revived deliberations on the law it named Bangsamoro Organic Law (BOL) and enacted it as R.A. 11054 on July 24, 2018. The law, however, shortened the transition period from desired sis years to just three that will last until 2022.

I believe the MILF with its political party called United Bangsamoro Justice Party (UBJP) can squarely participate and field candidates in the 2022 elections, but winning seats in the regional parliament is another question.

MILF Chairman and BARMM Interim Chief Minister Ahod “Hadji Murad” Ebrahim has acknowledged the lack of their fledgling administration’s “major success” in the government track and normalization track of the 2014 accord.

 He said their reign in BARMM has not met the public expectation yet, a scenario he feared to cause dismal votes for UBJP candidates in 2022. And we must consider also the fact that unless reforms are put in place, electoral contests in Bangsamoro provinces would remained a money-influenced affair of traditional politicians.

The call of some quarters now backed by the BTA for a three-year extension in the transition process of the BARMM governance is proper, moral and legal – in the name of better autonomous governance.

(Comments on or suggestions to this column can be sent to alimac.bulletin@gmail.com)

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