MANILA, Philippines – A month after they took their oaths, Bangsamoro Transition Authority members are yet to convene as a parliament.
The date for their inauguration and first Session as parliament has been repeatedly changed to make sure President Rodrigo Duterte will be there.
Bangsamoro Interim Chief Minister Murad Ebrahim admitted this was the reason for moving the tentative inauguration date from March 25 to 29.
"Availability of the President," he said in a message to Rappler on Thursday, March 21.
Sources privy to the event preparations had said that even before the March 25 date, there had been an agreement among BTA members for the inauguration to take place on March 21. It was eventually moved to March 25 because Duterte could not make it on the 21st (that day, he had 3 events in Metro Manila).
The very first tentative date for the inauguration was March 11 or some 2 weeks after BTA members took their oath on February 22.
But due to worries over a lack of preparation, it was moved to March 18, said a source privy to the discussions.
There is sentiment among some Bangsamoro advocates that the inauguration and first session should take place with or without Duterte, as a way to show the BTA's independence.
Worth the wait
Delaying the two ceremonies would also delay the BTA from accomplishing its tasks such as passing administrative and local government codes and formulating a transition plan.
Murad acknowledged this sentiment but said Duterte is worth the wait. "True, but the attendance of the President will also send strong signal for his support to BARMM (Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao)," he said.
Duterte's presence at the events is good optics. Murad is counting on Duterte's support to ensure no hiccups in the passage of BARMM's budget and block grant next year.
The Bangsamoro Parliament is an offshoot of a successful plebiscite in January this year where Cotabato City and the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) ratified the Bangsamoro Organic Law. BARMM will now replace ARMM, a key demand of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) in its peace agreement with the previous Aquino administration.
During the first session, the Bangsamoro Parliament is expected to finalize its house rules and rules of procedure, necessary for it to begin formal deliberations on critical laws.
The inauguration, meanwhile, will likely include the presentation by the MILF of the names of its 12,000 troops to be decommissioned as part of its deal with the Philippine govermment.
The creation of BARMM and its parliament is aimed at ending decades of Muslim rebellion in Mindanao, a region which Muslims say continues to discriminate against them. – Rappler.com
Pia Ranada covers the Office of the President and Bangsamoro regional issues for Rappler. While helping out with desk duties, she also watches the environment sector and the local government of Quezon City. For tips or story suggestions, you can reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.