MANILA - The members of the group that will govern a newly formed Bangsamoro region in Mindanao on Friday took their oath before President Rodrigo Duterte, marking a milestone in the long-drawn effort to end rebellion in the restive region.
Murad Ebrahim, chairman of the Moro Islamic Liberation (MILF), took his oath as interim chief minister of the 3-year transition government of the new Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM).
Also among members of the 80-man Bangsamoro Transition Authority (BTA) is Abdullah Macapaar alias Commander Bravo, a rogue MILF commander who raided communities in North Cotabato and Lanao del Norte in 2008 after the Supreme Court halted the signing of an ancestral domain agreement.
In his speech before members of the BTA and other MILF leaders, Duterte said the establishment of the BARMM “is not just a fulfillment to a campaign promise, it will be the realization of our collective desire.”
“It will be the realization of all our dreams and end decades of armed struggle that hindered growth,” he said.
“I guarantee that you and this administration will use all the resources within its disposal to ensure better governance and inclusive political empowerment in this new Bangsamoro region.”
The President also challenged the BTA members to “always embody the dreams and aspirations of the great men and women who came before you and fought for your recognition and your right to determine your future.”
“I ask you never to waiver in your commitment to build an institution founded on the rule of law, the promotion of good governance and defense of our most valued and cherished democratic values,” he added.
The chief executive said he also hopes the new autonomous region would also be a place of peaceful coexistence among Muslims, Christians, and Lumad.
“The road to peace may be long and rough, but I’m glad we finally reached its endpoint,” he said.
“My only hope is that we put to rest the bitter memories of the past so we can build a new region that is bound not by ethnic or religious affiliation but by the common aspiration for peaceful coexistence among our fellow Filipinos.”
The BTA is composed of 41 representatives from the MILF and 39 others from the government.
The creation of the BTA is one of the major steps in the peace process between the Philippine government and the MILF, which once led a secessionist rebellion in Mindanao.
The peace negotiations culminated in the signing of the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro (CAB) in March 2014, under the leadership of then President Benigno Aquino III.
The BTA’s formation followed the ratification of the Bangsamoro Organic Law, the measure that is to become the basis of the creation of the BARMM, which shall replace the current Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao.
The newly formed body shall lead the transition of government from the ARMM to BARMM, a new region that is granted more powers and greater fiscal autonomy.