Officials upbeat about full transition of BARMM from interim status

Published July 17, 2019, 4:24 PM

by Dr. Eduardo Gonzales

By Ali Macabalang

COTABATO CITY – Provisional officials of the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM), led by Interim Chief Minister Ahod “Murad” Ebrahim, are upbeat about attaining full transition, which is right on schedule.

Interim chief minister of the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (Keith Bacongco / MANILA BULLETIN)
Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao Interim Chief Minister Ahod “Murad” Ebrahim
(Keith Bacongco / MANILA BULLETIN)

Under the BARMM charter (R.A. 11054), the transformation of BARMM to regular operations is being administered by the Bangsamoro Transition Authority (BTA), which President Duterte constituted.

BTA shall oversee the transition with a timetable ending upon the election of regular officials by 2022.

“So far, we are on right track and time, confident that by the end of the interim period (on June 30, 2022) the BARMM operations will be in regular course,” the office of Ebrahim told The Manila Bulletin.

Ebrahim has already designated the heads of about a dozen ministries, which fused functions and workforces of some line agencies in the defunct 29-year old Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM).

Among the ARMM agencies covered in the fusion were the Department of Education, the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority and the Commission on Higher Education now integrated under the Ministry of Basic, Higher and Technical Education (MBHTE); and the Departments of Agriculture and Fisheries, and Agrarian Reform being fused now into the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Agrarian Reform (MAFAR).

The BARMM government has embarked on absorbing the regional functions of the Department of Energy for fusion into the Ministry of Natural Resources, Environment and Energy. It also wants to absorb the full regional operations of the Department of Transportation and Communication (DoTC), which was not fully devolved to ARMM until its abolition.

Ebrahim recently appointed retired Army Col. Dickson Hermoso, outgoing assistant secretary in the Office of the Presidential Adviser on Peace Process (OPAPP), as Transportation and Communication minister. President Duterte, on the other hand, recently designated Agriculture Secretary Manny Piñol as his “point man” in BARMM.

Hermoso was born and raised in Cotabato City, while Piñol was born in North Cotabato, which he once served as town mayor, vice governor and governor. The city is now part of BARMM, while 63 villages in North Cotabato also form part of the regional autonomy.  But their being Christians have drawn criticism from some Moro residents in online viral commentaries.

Objections against Piñol’s designation as “point man” fizzled out only after Ebrahim “accepted” it in a recent meeting in Malacañang where the President reportedly pointed out that role of Pinol would be to help hasten the snail-paced devolution line agencies to BARMM.

The ICM office also invoked the “inclusivity” clause under the prescribed operations of the regional autonomy, putting a closure to questions about Hermoso’s appointment.

Meanwhile, Ebrahim has ordered lately the conduct of series of round table discussions (RTDs) in the crafting of vital regional enable edits that would flesh out the full transition of the BARMM government. Among the priority measures are the BARMM’s Local Government Code (LGC), administrative code, and regional tax code.

Local Government Minister Naguib Sinarimbo said ICM Ebrahim has tasked his ministry to spearhead the crafting of the LGC.

Sinarimbo said he was optimistic that the LGC draft will be completed “within this year,” after which ICM Ebrahim will submit it to BTA for deliberation and approval.

He said all processes involved in the transitional operations are being assisted by concerned foreign entities like the Japan International Cooperation Agency, and agencies of the United Nations.

BARMM was formally established last March 29 following the ratification of its charter (R..A. 11055) last January and February, pursuant to two major peace deals forged in 2013 and 2014 by the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) and the government.

The MILF has formed its official political party to field candidates for BARMM positions in the 2022 elections.