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‘MILF, MNLF united under new Bangsamoro Transition Authority’

Alexis Romero - The Philippine Star
âMILF, MNLF united under new Bangsamoro Transition Authorityâ
This file photo shows the executive building of the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao.
The STAR / John Unson

MANILA, Philippines — Former warring members of the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) and Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) have been united under the new Bangsamoro Transition Authority (BTA), Malacañang said yesterday.

The BTA is the interim government of the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM), which replaced the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao.

The 80-member governing body is tasked to pass crucial laws to operationalize the Bangsamoro Organic Law (BOL) and exercise legislative and executive powers during BARMM’s transition period. Members of the BTA were appointed by the President.

The BOL specifies that the MILF shall lead the BTA, without prejudice to the participation of the MNLF.

Last Friday, President Marcos led the oath-taking of the new members of the BTA, some of whom are aligned with MNLF founding chairman Nur Misuari.

In a closed-door event in Malacañang attended by top Palace officials and the two heads of Congress last Friday, Marcos swore in Chief Minister Ahod Ebrahim and other interim members of the BTA. Eighty individuals – 41 of which were MILF nominees and 39 government nominees – were named members of the BTA.

With the new BTA, the former warring members of MNLF and MILF “have been finally united under one Bangsamoro autonomous government,” a Palace statement said.

“The fact that the unity between the MNLF and MILF happened under the present administration is an indication that President Marcos’ call for unity is being heeded by the former Moro rebel groups,” the statement quoted Press Secretary Trixie Cruz-Angeles as saying.

Under the BOL, an outcome of a peace deal signed by the government and the MILF in 2014, the MILF shall lead the BTA without prejudice to the participation of the MNLF. The BTA’s 41 members shall be nominated by the MILF, while the remaining 39 members shall be endorsed by the government.

Among the new members of the BTA are Abdulkarim Misuari and Nurrheda Misuari, son and daughter of Misuari. a move that peace adviser Carlito Galvez Jr. said signifies a big step toward unity in the region.

MNLF’s participation, particularly under the leadership of Misuari, is a product of the “convergence effort” of the Office of the Presidential Adviser on Peace, Reconciliation and Unity to harmonize the Bangsamoro peace agreements, including the 1976 Tripoli deal, the 1996 final peace agreements and the 2014 Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro, Malacañang said.

“With the joining of the MNLF and the MILF, and with the balanced and equitable composition of the 39 GPH (government of the Philippines) nominees... this is now no longer just the BTA of the old BARMM but the BTA of a ‘United BARMM,’” said Galvez.

“It has been a long time since the MNLF and the MILF have split but under the Marcos administration, they are one in pushing for sustainable peace and development in the Bangsamoro,” he added.

BARMM, which enjoys a greater share in national government revenues, is composed of the provinces of Basilan (except Isabela City), Lanao del Sur, Maguindanao, Sulu and Tawi-Tawi; the cities of Cotabato, Lamitan and Marawi; and 63 barangays in six towns of North Cotabato.

In 2019, the BOL was ratified through a plebiscite, leading to the creation of the BARMM and the BTA. Last year, former president Rodrigo Duterte signed a law postponing the election in BARMM that was supposed to be conducted this year, extending the transition period of the BTA to 2025.

During the oath-taking ceremony, Marcos said extending the BTA’s term of office was intended to give the body more time to finish its tasks.

“We are given another chance... but we have three years and it is not a long time for this rather basic, fundamental, and highly important pieces of legislation that have to be produced now by the Transition Authority. I’m specifically referring to fiscal policy. You have to define taxation and fiscal policy, and how they are going to be defined and what are the rules to be followed,” the President said.

Marcos also urged the BTA to pass an election law within the extended transition period.

“We have to finish the Electoral Code by 2025 because after 2025, we will no longer have any extensions... and we will conduct elections. We must have very clear rules on the conduct of those elections,” he added. – Neil Jayson Servallos

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