COTABATO CITY, FEBRUARY 27, 2019 – The leadership of the Bangsamoro Transition Authority (BTA), the interim government of the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM), promised to deliver good governance in the new Bangsamoro government following their assumption into office on Tuesday.

Murad Ebrahim Al Haj, chair of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) who was appointed by President Rodrigo Roa Duterte as the interim Chief Minister of the BARMM, vowed to eradicate the culture of corruption and sustain the gains of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) in recent years.

“The trust and responsibility is now in our hands,” he said as he led the 80-member BTA in the ceremonial handover event at the Shariff Kabunsuan Cultural Complex inside the ARMM Compound.

“We are accountable to it,  to Allah, and our fellow Bangsamoro,” he added.

Murad summarized the main agenda of the interim government to ensure the delivery of services to the Moro and non-Moro people residing  in the BARMM.

“Our government shall take responsibility for the education of our children. Our government shall take responsibility for the health of our constituents. Our government shall take responsibility for the economic development of our region. Our government shall take responsibility for the infrastructure development of our areas. I shall be responsible for leading a morally upright bureaucracy,” he said, generating thunderous applause from the audience.

The BARMM is composed of the provinces of Maguindanao, Lanao del Sur, and the island provinces of Basilan, Sulu, and Tawi-tawi. The autonomous region’s territory has expanded to include the city of Cotabato and 63 villages in North Cotabato province following the plebiscites in these areas.

To show their sincerity, Murad announced that all BTA members will take their oath on the Holy Quran aside from the oath they took in Malacañan Palace last Friday.

Murad said the Bangsamoro people are now entering a new struggle, which is to instill the culture of good governance in the autonomous region.

“Our enemy during this struggle are not the soldiers. Our enemy is not the government. Our enemy is oppression, our enemy is exploitation, our enemies are those anti-people,” he said.

“We are now entering another level of Jihad. Our Jihad will be more intense and more challenging. Our Jihad, firstly, will be against our own self… Our enemy is graft and corruption. Our enemy is manipulation of the government. Our enemy is nepotism. Our enemy is all those ills of the government,” he added.

The establishment of the BARMM is the result of the successful ratifications of the Bangsamoro Organic Law — the legal document operationalizing the provisions of the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro, including all the previous peace agreements that the government has entered into with the Moro fronts.

ARMM Governor Mujiv Hataman said he is elated at bowing down from the office since he is leaving a more developed ARMM.

Marahil nga po, nasabi ko na ang halos lahat ng masasabi ukol sa nakaraang pitong taon. Ang mga tulay at kalsada; ang mas maayos na serbisyo; ang panibagong kabanata ng kapayapaan; ang mga reporma sa pamamahala—malinaw na naman siguro sa lahat ito. Iiwan natin ang rehiyon nang mas malakas, mas maunlad…” he said, having to stop speaking for a moment as he choked back tears.

(I have probably said everything that needs to be said about the past seven years. The bridges and roads; better services; a new chapter of peace; reforms in governance–presumably everything is clear to everyone. We will be leaving the region stronger, more developed…)    

ARMM’s economic growth has improved in recent years. In 2017, its gross regional domestic product had its peak in history with 12.1 percent, making it the fastest in the country. Its employment rate also surged at 97.4 percent last year.

For his part, Presidential Peace Adviser Carlito G. Galvez Jr. said he is confident the members of the BTA can fulfill their mandate since they are people with “sincerity, dedication, and commitment in pushing for the realization of the Bangsamoro aspirations.”

“As we roll our sleeves in the coming days, I know that the BTA members are ready for the challenges ahead,” he said in a speech.

Galvez urged the the BTA to “work for the common good of the Bangsamoro People.”

“From individual to organizational, let’s transcend it to societal change in our desire for peace, progress, and prosperity,” he said.

“The bottom line here is to bring good governance through clean governmental transaction. This will show our sincerity to provide the needed services that the people in the Bangsamoro truly deserve,” the chief peace adviser added.

Galvez also emphasized the significance of unity in diversity, urging the new leadership to work together as a team.

“Just like a rainbow, it is composed of different hues. Each color is uniquely beautiful and has a special purpose. It is reflective of the various tribes and beliefs that co-exist in the Bangsamoro homeland. But we can only maximize its beauty and power if we work harmoniously and collectively,” he said.

Immediately after the ceremonial handover, the new Bangsamoro government hit the ground running as Murad called for a meeting with his Cabinet to set the direction and focus of the new administration.

Another meeting was set today to identify the parliament’s priorities for the next 100 days, which include the establishment of the key legislative structures such as Electoral, Local Government, Education, Administrative, Revenue, and Civil Service Codes.

Prior to yesterday’s event, Murad met with Galvez and Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) chair Yusop Jikiri to discuss issues that need to be resolved to ensure a seamless transition. Among them is the status of ARMM employees.

“We agreed that there will be no retrenchment. All employees, except those who are coterminous, will be retained until the end of the year,” Galvez said.

The presidential peace adviser recalled the President’s guidance to put a premium on the welfare of the Bangsamo and all Filipino.

“We should put personal interest behind and work for the common good of the Bangsamoro people. ‘Yun po ang sinasabi ng ating mahal na Presidente, malasakit para sa mga tao, so that the wellbeing of our people will be taken care of,” he said.

During his speech at the oath-taking ceremony of the BTA last week, the President emphasized to the interim government to run the new Bangsamoro region strictly following the rule of law.

“As you lead this new region towards a brighter tomorrow, I ask you never to waver in your commitment to build an institution that is founded on the rule of law, the promotion of good governance, and the defense [of] our most cherished democratic values,” the President said.