MANILA - Malacañang on Monday denied that the selection of the Bangsamoro Transition Authority (BTA), a group that will govern the newly created Bangsamoro region in Mindanao, was rushed, even though President Rodrigo Duterte himself admitted there were last-minute changes to the composition of the body.
Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo made this claim after Tawi-Tawi professor Arlene Sevilla complained that the Palace did not release her appointment paper to the BTA even though she took her oath before the President last Feb. 22.
“Hindi naman, eh matagal na yata iyang mga listahan na iyan eh. Alam mo ‘pag nag-a-apply iyong mga tao, matagal pa iyang nag-a-apply, maraming vetting, may… pinag-aaralan din nila iyan,” Panelo said in a Palace press briefing.
“Maraming ang nag-apply. Matagal din ang vetting eh, I don’t think na within a week lang ginawa nila iyon, matagal na iyon.”
In a chance interview after the oath-taking of the BTA members, Duterte shared that he was late for the ceremony because some tweaks were made in the composition of the BTA.
“May hinabol sila na late. May in-exchange,” Duterte told reporters last Feb. 22.
It turned out, according to a MindaNews report, that several others who were supposed to take their oath before Duterte were asked to no longer attend the ceremony, in an apparent rejection of their respective nominations. In Sevilla’s case, she was still allowed to attend the oath-taking ceremony, only to learn later that she was not included in the list of final appointees.
While he stressed that the selection of the BTA members was not rushed, Panelo nonetheless admitted that there was a “mix-up” that may have led to Sevilla being allowed to join the oath-taking ceremony despite not being included in the final list of appointees, which was released by the Palace on Feb. 27, five days after the oath-taking.
Panelo said he has talked to Presidential Peace Adviser Carlito Galvez Jr. and the latter said he will assume responsibility for the incident.
The controversy involving Sevilla’s removal from the list of BTA members is the latest to hound the transition body.
Lawyer Firdausi Abbas, recognized as sultan of Lanao but was not appointed to the BTA, said he would “pursue the [Moros'] crusade along pacifist lines” once he quits the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF).
Abbas had accused MNLF faction leader Yusop Jikiri of conspiring with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) to make sure the latter would get majority of the seats in the BTA.