By Ali G. Macabalang
COTABATO CITY – President Ferdinand “Bong Bong” Marcos Jr. has been invited as honor guest of the inaugural session of the refreshed Bangsamoro Transition Authority (BTA) here on September 15, and he likely heeded the invitation to address the 80 BTA members he appointed and swore in last August 12, according to officials.
Reappointed Presidential Peace Adviser Carlito Galvez Jr. reportedly announced the date of the President’s probable attendance in the BTA-2 event after a meeting in Davao City on Sept. 11, Sunday hosted by Special Assistant to the President Anton Lagdameo for Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM) officials led by Chief Minister Ahod “Hadji Murad” Ebrahim.
Palace officials and stakeholders were “preparing for this big event,” Sec. Galvez was quoted as saying, referring to the Sept. 15 event where foreign dignitaries as well as key national and local leaders are also expected to attend.
Sources said Galvez and Ladameo were upbeat on the presence of President Marcos in the BTA-2 opening session, even as they were buoyed by the “spirit of unity” in the Bangsamoro community exemplified a day earlier, Sept. 10, in the “reunion” meeting also in Davao City between Chief Minister Ebrahim and Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) founding Chairman Nur Misuari.
Ebrahim also chairs the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), which was founded by the late Salamat Hashim after bolting the MNLF due to policy differences with Misuari. Hashim was one of Misuari’s vice chairs in the MNLF, which signed with the regime of late President Ferdinand Marcos Sr. the 1976 Tripoli Agreement, which called for autonomy in 10 provinces and 10 cities in Mindanao then.
Past administrations backed by some Moro revolutionary leaders had tried but failed to reconcile the MNLF-Misuari group and the MILF. The same setback was true in uniting the Misuari group and the MNLF “Council of 15” led in succession by Parouk Hussin, Hatimil Hassan, Muslimin Sema, Youph Jikiri and Sema again to date.
Sources, who asked not to be named for lack of authority, shared the enthusiasm on PBBM’s presence in the Sept. 15 event, saying the President has already achieved an “initial success” to reunite revolutionary leaders through his appointment of the second batch of BTA members as interim ruling body of BARMM.
The refreshed interim parliament or BTA-2 is now composed of 41 MILF nominees as encouraged in the Bangsamoro Organic Law (R.A. 11054) and the 2014 Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro (CAB) including the son of late Chairman Hashim; seven from MNLF-Sema faction (including Sema and Jikiris sons and relatives); and seven from the Mainstream MNLF (including the daughter and son of Misuari).
It may be recalled that then Senator Bongbong Marcos was implicitly adamant about the passage of the Bansansaro Basic Law (the original BOL) in the Senate because of his foreseen resistance of MNLF-Misuari group. Marcos was chair of the Senate Committee on Local Government. The BBL bill was archived following the public outrage sparked by the infamous 2015 battle in Mamasapano, Maguindanao that left more than 60 fatalities including 44 elite police troops.
Interior and Local Government Secretary Benhur Abalos is also reportedly upbeat about President Marcos’ presence in the BTA-2 inaugural session. He was present in the recent meetings in Davao City.
Abalos said in published reports that he felt like “we’re one, we’re brothers” and that the President was committed to give his administration’s “utmost” support for unified strides in bringing peace and progress in BARMM.
(Attached are online-generated historic photos involved in the evolution of the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM) under the Aquino, Duterte and Marcos administrations.)