Sat. May 25th, 2019

BTA to use diplomacy to address regional threat groups

COTABATO CITY — The Bangsamoro Transition Authority (BTA) will reach out to local Islamic State-inspired militants and convince them to return to the fold of law.

The BTA, chaired by Hadji Murad Ebrahim, is now overseeing the transition from the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao to the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao, or BARMM.

“We shall reach out and tell them that governance is the better path to peace and development in the BARMM,” Ebrahim said late Tuesday, after the ARMM government was turned over to him by its former chief executive, Mujiv Hataman.

Hataman, who was at the helm of the ARMM government since 2012, has declined to join the MILF-led transitory group so he can focus on local peace and security programs in his home place, Basilan, where there are reforming 235 former Abu Sayyaf bandits he is helping reintroduce now into the local communities.

Hataman is a candidate for congressman in the lone congressional district of Basilan, now a component-province of BARMM.

Ebrahim said the presence of small Islamic State-inspired groups in the BARMM encourages the BTA to function efficiently to hasten the socio-economic growth and restoration of normalcy in conflict-stricken areas in the region.

Ebrahim is chairman of the MILF’s central committee, whose members were also appointed as BTA members by President Rodrigo Duterte.

“We need to show proof. We can use diplomacy and if we don’t succeed, we can let the security entities come in but there is always a room for peaceful efforts,” said Ebrahim, appointed chief minister of BARMM.
The BTA will function as BARMM’s caretaker pending the election of its first set of pioneering elected officials in 2022.

Ebrahim said he will help sustain the peace efforts started by Hataman who relied on humanitarian interventions and infrastructure programs to entice Abu Sayyaf members in Basilan to bolt out and organize themselves into cooperatives now engaged in entrepreneurial activities while being assimilated into mainstream society.

BARMM’s newly-designated local government minister, lawyer Naguib Sinarimbo, told reporters Tuesday night he will try his best to capacitate local government units for more to qualify for the 2019 Seal of Good Local Governance (SGLG) award from the central office of the Department of the Interior and Local Government.

Twenty three LGUs, among them the city government of Lamitan, the new capital of Basilan, received the SGLG in 2018 for good governance and sound implementation of domestic socio-economic and security programs.

Not a single LGU under the now defunct ARMM received an SGLG award during the time of past regional governors.

Sinarimbo, who is close to the Christian communities in central Mindanao, said good governance is essential to BARMM’s peace and security initiatives.

He said his office can ask help from the police and the military to monitor the presence of local chief executives and provincial officials in their offices to address absenteeism in their ranks.

“We are under martial law so we can easily ask help from authorities to help us check if they are indeed functioning as local chief executives,” Sinarimbo said.

The newly-established BARMM, whose charter, the R.A 11054, was ratified via a plebiscite last January 21, covers all of the 118 towns in ARMM’s five provinces — Maguindanao, Lanao del Sur, Basilan, Sulu and Tawi-Tawi — whose residents voted in favor of the measure.

Sinarimbo said the more than 60 barangays in North Cotabato whose residents voted for inclusion of their communities into the BARMM during another plebiscite on February 6 shall temporarily be managed by an administrator.

“We still have to study and do consultations from among stakeholders on how to group these barangays together under a local government unit perhaps under one congressional district.” Sinarimbo said.

John Unson

John Unson, The Philippine Star's writer and the president of the Kampilan Defense Press Corps (KDPC) based in Sixth Infantry Division (6th ID) at Camp Siongco, Datu Odin Sinsuat, Maguindanao.