COTABATO CITY – Moro Islamic Liberation Front Chair Murad Ebrahim has vowed to fix “ills” known in the bureaucracies of past regional autonomy as he commenced his stewardship of the more autonomous entity established by the government pursuant mainly to its 2014 major peace accord with the MILF.
Murad officially assumed office as interim chief minister of the Bangsamoro Transition Authority (BTA) after a symbolic ceremony between him and outgoing Governor Mujiv Hataman of the just-defunct Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) here on Tuesday.
The turnover rites were held at the Shariff Kabunsuan Cultural Center (SKCC) inside the 32-hectare ARMM compound here. The same edifice will serve as temporary session hall of the 80-member BTA parliament.
At the ceremony, Hataman handed to Murad the transition report containing the salient gains and concerns of his seven-year administration, and officially ending the ARMM governance the government established in 1989 pursuant to its peace deal with the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF).
President Duterte swore in Murad and other members of the 80-member BTA in Malacañang on Feb. 22, naming the MILF chairman as interim chief minister until the election of regular officials of the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM) in 2022.
In his inaugural speech, Murad said they “will also take oath to Allah over the Quran…to ensure …that we will work for a government that will really be free of all the ills of governance.”
He considered their administration of BARMM to be more daunting than the MILF’s four decades of armed struggle secession to genuine autonomy.
“Our jihad will be more intense and more challenging. Our jihad will be firstly against our own selves. Our enemy is graft and corruption. Our enemy is nepotism (and other) ills of the government. This is the next struggle we are ready to wage. This is the next jihad that we are ready to wage,” Murad said.
In another speech, Presidential Peace Adviser Carlito Galvez Jr. told attendees that “like a rainbow, we must stick together and weather the storm to reach the pot of gold of peace at the end.”
From the turnover ceremony at the refurbished SKCC, Hataman ushered Murad to the nearby Office of the Regional Governor (ORG), now renamed Chief Minister’s office.
Murad appointed some of his cabinet members for the parliamentary-democratic-styled Bangsamoro entity.
The appointees included MILF’s 2nd Vice Chair Mohagher Iqbal (education), front’s armed forces Chief of Staff Abdulraof Macacua (environment and natural resources, energy), MILF Central Committee member Eduard Guerra (finance, budget and management), and Commissioner Raissa Jajurie (social services).
Murad named MILF first Vice Chair Ghadzali Jaafar as parliament speaker; lawyer Naguib Sinarimbo, once an ARMM executive secretary, as the minister for local government, and Dr. Saff Dipatuan of Lanao del Sur as health minister.
Murad will serve on concurrent capacity as public works minister.
BTA is prescribed under R.A. 11054 or Bangsamoro Organic Law (BOL) to have 80 members. Hataman and 24 other elected ARMM officials are deemed BTA additional members until the end of their elective term on June 30 this year.
The Murad-led BTA will manage the BARMM’s full transition from ARMM. ARMM was created 29 years ago in lieu of the two regional autonomous governments (RAGs) established in Central and Western Mindanao in 1977 under the Marcos era in what was said to be its “unilateral” implementation of the 1976 accord forged with MNLF founding Chair Nur Misuari in Tripoli, Libya.
Mr. Marcos originally decreed one Autonomous Region in Southern Philippines covering 10 provinces and six cities, and installed then Lanao del Sur Gov. Ali Dimaporo as interim head.
In 1979, Batas Pambansa No. 20 split the autonomous area into two regions, one in Central Mindanao and another in Western Mindanao, with each zone having an executive council or Lupong Tagapagpaganap ng Pook (LTP) and Batasang Pampook or regional legislature.
Maguindanao’s Simeon Datumanong served as first LTP chairman, with Lanao Sur’s Abul Khayr Alonto, an MNLF founding vice chair, as first Batasang Pampook speaker in Central Mindanao. The region then was composed of Sultan Kudarat, Maguindanao, North Cotabato, Lanao del Sur and Lanao del Norte including the cities of Cotabato, Marawi and Iligan.
Western Mindanao then comprised of Zamboanga del Sur, Zamboanga del Norte, Basilan, Tawi-Tawi and Sulu, and the cities of Zamboanga, Pagadian and Isabela. Retired Rear Admiral Romulo Espaldon served as fist LTP chairman and Abubakar Rasol sat as maiden Batasan Pampook speaker for the region.
When Corazon Aquino took over the reign from Marcos in 1986, she named OIC-chairmen Zacaria Candao of Maguindanao and Ulbert Ututalum of Sulu for Central Mindanao and Western Mindanao, respectively.
Congress eventually passed R.A. 6734 in 1987 to abolish the two autonomous regions and establish the ARMM. Candao was elected first ARMM governor in the 1990 election.
Graft and corruption as well as nepotism issues pervaded in the ARMM bureaucracy since then, something Hataman claimed to have been substantially reduced under his seven-year regime starting in December 2011 as OIC-governor. Hataman was elected regular governor in 2013 and reelected in 2016. (Ali G. Macabalang)