(Photo courtesy of BBM Facebook)

MANILA – President Ferdinand R. Marcos Jr. on Friday led the oath-taking of the new members of the Bangsamoro Transition Authority (BTA), the interim government of the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM).

What was not given prominence by the media was that with the new BTA, former warring members of the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) and Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) have been finally united under one Bangsamoro autonomous government.

“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,” Press Secretary Trixie Cruz-Angeles said on Sunday.

Presidential Adviser on Peace, Reconciliation and Unity (OPAPRU) Secretary Carlito G. Galvez Jr. has lauded the President for making the Bangsamoro a top priority of his administration.

“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," said Galvez as he emphasized the inclusion of both MNLF and MILF members in the BTA.

Appointed by the President, the BTA is an 80-member governing body tasked to pass crucial legislations to operationalize the Bangsamoro Organic Law (BOL) and exercise legislative and executive powers during the region’s transition period.

The BOL specifies that 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 of the Philippines (GPH).

"With the joining of the MNLF and the MILF, and with the 'balanced' and equitable composition of the 39 GPH nominees... this is now no longer just the BTA of the old BARMM but the BTA of a 'United BARMM,'" Galvez said.

The participation of the MNLF particularly under the leadership of Chair Nur Misuari is a product of the convergence effort of the OPAPRU to harmonize the Bangsamoro peace agreements that include the 1976 Tripoli, the 1996 Final Peace Agreements and the 2014 Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro.

Among the new members of the BTA are Abdulkarim Misuari and Nurrheda Misuari, son and daughter of Chair Misuari of the MNLF.

“The joining of the MNLF of Chair Nur Misuari with the MILF-led BTA is auspicious and heralds a significant step towards unity in the BARMM,” Galvez pointed out.

The ratification of the Republic Act No. 11054 or the BOL through a plebiscite held in 2019 paved the way for the creation of the BARMM, as well as the establishment of the BTA.

In 2021, former President Rodrigo Duterte signed Republic Act No. 11593 which postponed elections in BARMM that was scheduled to be held this year, and consequently, extending the transition period of the BTA to 2025

In his speech in Malacañang Friday, Marcos said the extension of the BTA’s term of office from 2022 to 2025 was meant to give the body more time to complete its tasks under the BOL.

"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," Marcos said.

The Chief Executive stressed that the BTA has to pass the Electoral Code 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 said.

The BTA has yet to come up with and pass priority measures which include the Bangsamoro Local Government Code, Electoral Code, Revenue Code and Indigenous Peoples' Code. (PR)