By Genalyn Kabiling
President Duterte has called on the interim government of the new Bangsamoro region to oversee the three-year transition period to the best of their ability and work for the interest of the people.
The President said the Bangsamoro Transition Authority (BTA) led by Moro Islamic Liberation Front chair (MILF) Al Haj Murad Ebrahim must also help promote the rule of law and good governance in the new autonomous region.
Murad has been appointed to serve as interim chief minister of the Bangsamoro caretaker government until the new regional leaders are elected in 2022.
“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,” Duterte said during the oath-taking of the 80-member BTA in Malacañang.
“Always work for the best interest and welfare, not only of the Bangsamoro people, but every Filipino who live in that region. I trust that you will oversee the transition period to the best of your abilities, especially in the decommissioning of firearms and former combatants,” he added.
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 the recognition of your right to determine your future.”
Murad and dozens of representatives from the Moro and non-Moro groups, indigenous peoples, women, youth, settler communities, and traditional leaders, took their oath of office before the President during the Palace ceremony.
Among the Bangsamoro transition leaders are Abdullah Macapaar also known as Commander Bravo, an MILF commander who led the attacks in Lanao del Norte and North Cotabato in 2008 after a botched ancestral domain pact.
The President has welcomed the inclusion of Commander Bravo to the transition government in the Bangsamoro region.
“Well, he is a revolutionary. We are talking here of ending a revolution. So you should talk to a revolutionary or a warrior of that war,” he said in a later interview with reporters at the Palace.
The oath-taking ceremony also coincided with the Commission on Elections (Comelec)’s certification declaring the ratification of the Organic Act for the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao.
The law replaces the old Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao with a new territory that includes Cotabato City and 63 barangays from North Cotabato. The historic measure is part of the peace agreement forged by the government with the MILF a few years ago.
In his remarks, the President said the new Bangsamoro region was not just the fulfillment of a campaign promise but realization of the collective desire to end decades-long armed struggle in the region he considers “home.”
He has pledged that the government would use all resources within its disposal to ensure better governance and inclusive political empowerment in the new Bangsamoro region.
“We would like to see an end of the violence that has rocked Mindanao and have cost so many lives for nothing,” he said.
“For after all, we go to war and shoot each other, counter — counting our victories, not by the progress or development of the place but by the dead bodies that were thrown around during the violent years,” he added.
The President said he always prays for Mindanao which has suffered conflict for many years.
“I thank Allah for his mercy and for his understanding of his people. And so every time I pray, I pray for my place, Mindanao, because we have suffered so many bombing, so many lives lost, I said, for really nothing,” he said.
“In the end, all the great revolutions the world has ever seen, and all the great wars that we have undergone in — well, of course I was not yet around. But violence visited us every now and then,” he added.