By Ali Macabalang
COTABATO CITY – Proponents from various sectors have converged anew to push for the creation of an office for the welfare of Muslim communities outside the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM).
Dozens of personalities rallying moves for the creation of such agency held here on March 4 their second meeting, and floated two enabling options, one by an executive order by BARMM Chief Minister Ahod “Hadji Murad” Ebrahim and another through the passage of a bill now pending in the Bangsamoro Transition Authority (BTA) parliament.
Both options can flesh out the proposal for an Office of the Bangsamoro Communities Outside of the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region (BCOBAR), according to supporters led by their national federation chair Amroding D. Rasul.
Norhaine Candao and Selahuddin Yu Hashim, representing the office of the BTA Parliament speaker and civil society organizations, respectively, joined Rasul in presiding over the day-long meeting at the BARMM compound here. Roy Tamano, representing Bangsamoro people living overseas, also joined the discussion.
A report from those who attended the meeting said the conference preferred for the immediate passage of Parliament Bill No. 15 seeking to create the BCOBAR.
The bill, authored by Parliament member Maisara Dandamun-Latiph and reportedly co-sponsored by fellow members Mohagher Iqbal, Safrullah Dipatuan and Abdullah Macapaar, was filed in the regional legislature on Oct. 17, 2019.
Under the bill, funds for the operations of the proposed BCOBAR shall be derived from the BARMM’s P63.6-billion annual block grant from the national government.
The published report cited author Latiph as saying that the BARMM assistance to Bangsamoro communities outside “should not be optional” pursuant to Article VI, Section 12 of R.A. 11054 that prescribes for the autonomous entity to help enhance the socio-economic wellbeing of Moro people living elsewhere in the country and abroad.
R.A. 11054, also known as Bangsamoro Organic Law (BOL), was enacted in July 2018 for the creation of BARMM in replacement of the 29-year old Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao.
BARMM now covers Maguindanao, Lanao del Sur (including Marawi City), Basilan (including Lamitan City), Sulu and Tawi-Tawi as well as this city and 63 barangays from six towns in North Cotabato. It has a total population of close to four million based on 2015 census.
BCOBAR proponents said there are six to seven million Moro people living in communities elsewhere in Mindanao, Luzon and Visayas.
Some of the proponents travelled from different parts of the country for the March 4 conference here, and took turns in underscoring the significance of creating the office for BCOBAR.
On March 6, however, National Commission on Muslim Filipinos (NCMF) spokesman Jun Alonto-Datu Ramos posted a message in the Facebook downplaying the need for the proposed office because his agency was already serving the communities mentioned in the regional bill.
“The NCMF “is already performing the functions that this bill is aiming for, and has been doing so for the past decade, even with its limited funding,” Datu Ramos said.
He said BARMM officials should rather focus first their transitional governance on “integral and fundamental issues” within the areas of autonomy “before even attempting to build (something for) outside of it.”
“Maybe, once BARMM has stabilized and proven capable by improving the living conditions of (its constituents), then they (regional officials and proponents) can attempt to extend their reach,” Datu Ramos averred. (Ali G. Macabalang)