By Ali G. Macabalang
COTABATO CITY – The Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM) officialdom honored the “martyrdom” of Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) founding Chairman Salamat Hashim on Tuesday, July 13, the day he succumbed to health complications in 2003 or 19 years ago.
BARMM Chief Minister Ahod “Hadji Murad” Ebrahim alongside key members of his cabinet held the commemoration at the MILF’s Camp Rajamuda in Pikit, North Cotabato. Pikit, 22 villages of which now belong to BARMM, is adjacent to Maguindanao’s Pagalungan town where Sheikh Hashim was born on July 7, 1939.
Ebrahim, current MILF chairman, was assisted by Senior Minister Abdulraof “Sammy Gambar” Macacua, and cabinet members Raissa Jajurie (social services), Naguib Sinarimbo (local government) and Ed Guerra (public works) in handing cash assistance to some 300 widows of fallen comrades and awarding relief devices to dozens of young and adult persons with disabilities (PWDs).
Each widow received 25,000 pesos constituting half of the sum earmarked under the rehabilitation program of the Ministry of Social Services and Development (MMSD) for MILF members’ widows, it was learned.
At the commemoration, Minister Sinarimbo announced the revving up of his ministry’s Salamat Excellence Award for Leadership (SEAL) launched in 2020 to recognize local government units or officials achieving exemplary feats.
Hashim died of complicated ailments at an MILF camp in Butig, Lanao del Sur on July 13, 2003, prompting the MILF central committee to select Ebrahim, the incumbent BARMM interim chief minister, as his successor.
He was one of founding vice chairmen of the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF). Over policy differences with Chairman Nur Misuari, he left the MNLF in the 1980s and founded the MILF to pursue the struggle for self-determination in the Islamic context.
The government under different administrations had engaged the MILF in peace talks that were sporadically stalled by armed skirmishes, which peaked in the “all-out” wars under the Estrada and Arroyo administrations.
The late President Noynoy Aquino’s government revived peace talks with the MILF, leading to the forging of the 2013 Framework Agreement on Bangsamoro (FAB) and the 2014 Comprehensive Agreement on Bangsamoro (CAB). The peace pacts guided Congress to deliberate a Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) for the creation of a new region in lieu of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) established in 1990.
Congress voted down the BBL amid public outrage wrought by the infamous battle in Mamasapano, Maguindanao on March 25, 2015 that claimed the lives of 44 Special Action Force operatives and over 20 other people including MILF cadres and residents.
In his 2016 presidential candidacy, Davao City Mayor Rodrigo Duterte spent a part of his campaign sortie at Camp Darapanan in Sultan Kudarat, Maguindanao to assure the MILF leadership that once elected, he would continue the peace talks and make Bangsamoro autonomy a “template” for parliamentary federal governance.
Congress eventually passed R.A. 11054, otherwise known as Bangsamoro Organic Law, which Duterte enacted on July 27, 2018. The law was ratified via plebiscites in January and February 2019, effectively abolishing ARMM and establishing BARMM in its place. Duterte appointed the 80-members of the Bangasamoro Transition Authority (BTA), BARMM interim governing body, before formally installing the regional government on March 29, 2019.
Due to perceived deficiency in time for both the MILF and the government to fully implement the mandates of the BOL and the CAB in a three-year transitional period ending June 30this year, Congress passed R.A. RA No. 11593 to amend the BOL, postpone the 2022 regional parliamentary, and extend the transition period to 2025.
The amendatory law authorizes the President to name 80 BTA members again. Duterte opted for the status quo to allow his successor, now President Bongbong Marcos, to make the appointments. A screening process is reportedly in the offing. The MILF nominated 41 people mandated under the BOL for appointment, alongside 39 counterparts from the government side.
Majority stakeholders believe the MILF-led BARMM governance has so far been successful in the transition period, saying the interim leadership has made tangible difference in areas where past autonomous entities failed. A handful of skeptics or critics sounded off otherwise.
Initial achievements in the grant of higher degree of autonomy and bigger government subsidies through the BARMM entity are widely attributed to the four-decade painstaking peace process, notably to the Duterte administration and the MILF leadership.
In particular, the feat is attributed to persistence of the late Sheikh Hashim, in whose honor the BARMM officialdom staged commemorative activities at Camp Rajahmuda last Wednesday, July 13. (AGM)