Finally, the wait is over

Residents of the Muslim Autonomous Region have been very anxious these past days. The indecision on the fate of the members of the Bangsamoro Transition Authority was unsettling them for days on end. They waited patiently for the President to appoint the 80-member BTA that exercises interim governance over the region.

Recall that the full institutionalization of the autonomous government was stalled because of the postponement of the parliamentary election to choose officials who will run the government. That election, by law, would have switched on its full operation.

For weeks, there were speculations about when and who will be appointed by the President as BTA deputies. The dillydally has led to unwanted consequences. There was the emergence of the Moro civic society groups creating waves in social media, advocating for a serious vetting in the selection in order to come out with more qualified members of the BTA premised on the assumption that there were deadwoods among the incumbents.

There emerged, likewise, a faction within the Moro Islamic Liberation Front, the “Salamat Wing” who was left out from the list prepared and submitted by Moro Islamic Liberation Front chief Murad Ebrahim for appointment to the BTA, which threatened the unity of the Front.

And the problem of selection is getting harder by the day, with other applicants coming out, perhaps inspired by the thought that the present BTA members have not delivered on their mandate, and it is time to replace them. It got complicated when political leaders who delivered a big margin of votes to the Marcos-Duterte tandem in the last elections were coming out, manifesting subtly their interest to lead the autonomous government, claiming moral ascendancy over the present Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao, which supported the losing presidential candidate. There was growing restiveness every day of delay.

Finally last Friday, the President decided, and there was an oathtaking of new BTA members, which put to rest all speculations and lobbying for appointment. But even then, there was tentativeness on the minds of many. They cannot forget the first time appointments were made in 2019 when some were called to Malacañang for oathtaking, only to be told that they were replaced to the great embarrassment of the prospective appointees. Later reports said there was last-minute lobbying of some powerful groups.

A look-see over the list of appointees will reveal the compelling and primordial consideration in the process — for continuity and stability. Most of the appointees have been serving before as regional parliamentarians, and in fact, some are carryovers from the defunct ARMM, the predecessor of BARMM. The national leadership saw that the region has so far enjoyed relative peace that needs to be sustained, hence, no need to “rock the boat.” Changing horses in midstream might alter the policy trajectory of the present leadership and lead to unwanted consequences.

It was likewise a compromise and conciliatory move to address mute protest by some leaders of the other rebel groups of unequal representation. The son of the late Shiek Hashim Salamat, founding MILF chairperson was appointed to appease the “Salamat Wing,” along with the son and daughter of Moro National Liberation Front chairperson Nur Misuari and the son of the leader of the breakaway group of the MNLF, Muslimen Sema. But other than that, it’s the same faces that we will be seeing in the regional parliament.

As we have advocated before, retaining the present leadership will bring political and social stability to the region. The peace we are enjoying now in the region is still fragile, and predators, mostly remnants of the Islamic State affiliates who still maintain sleeper cells in the boondocks, are just waiting for an opportune time to strike again. They are rebooting their forces and training for their armed struggle for a Caliphate. Government is not equipped and ready to fight enemies in two fronts — one from the IS-affiliated dissidents and disgruntled local separatists from splinter groups of Umbra Kato’s Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters.

More on this in my Saturday column.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *