The BTA: Rejoinder (2)


September 9, 2022

Dear Editor:

We are sure that Mr. Lanto is familiar with the history of the MILF and MNLF and the strained relationship they’ve had over the past years. The fact that chairman Misuari had recently agreed to meet with MILF chairman Murad Ebrahim is a testament to the winds of change that are sweeping across Bangsamoro. Former adversaries have committed to work side by side and push forward peace and economic progress in the region. On the part of the MNLF, their participation in the BTA is a realization of their commitment to play a more active role in governance in the BARMM, as what was agreed upon during the Tripartite Review Process of the Final Peace Agreement between the national government and MNLF.

The coming together of these major Moro groups, we believe, is the result of President Ferdinand Marcos Jr.’s call for national unity, which is among the main pillars of his administration’s peace policy agenda. Unfortunately, Mr. Lanto would rather paint a dire narrative by pointing out that the current composition of the BTA “has a tendency to alienate the residents” and is “divisive.” He refuses to see things in a positive light. This is something we can’t understand.

Just to set the record straight and to emphasize our earlier point: the BTA is being led by the MILF because it is stated in the BOL. This is not in any way a form of appeasement on the part of the national government and is surely not “giving too much importance to secessionist groups.” It might have been lost on Mr. Lanto that the Government of the Philippines had forged the FPA with the MNLF in 1996 and the Comprehensive Peace Agreement with the MILF in 2014, which paved the way for the creation of the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao and the establishment of the BTA. And now, the Marcos administration has given its full commitment to ensure the completion of the implementation of all signed Bangsamoro peace agreements. This steadfast commitment to the Bangsamoro peace process was evident when President Marcos himself led the oath-taking in Malacañang of the newly-installed BTA members.

We are likewise concerned over the observation of Mr. Lanto that “not all members of the BTA are Moros or Muslims, nor residents of BARMM territories.” He must have forgotten that the body’s creation is anchored on the principle of inclusivity. This means that the BTA membership is not exclusive to Moros, Muslims, or Bangsamoro residents only, but for everyone qualified to join the interim government regardless of their tribe or religion. This is also the reason why among the main criteria in the BTA selection process is the need for a diverse ethnolinguistic and sectoral representation. To ensure greater representation, the body now includes more women, youth, indigenous peoples, and young Moro professionals coming from the fields of medicine, law, and engineering, among others.

With such a diverse composition, it is clear that the BTA represents the interests of all key sectors of society in Bangsamoro.

We also take offense at Mr. Lanto’s baseless accusation of blaming “Peace Adviser General Charlie Galvez and the circle of ‘wise’ advisers of the President” if the BARMM will fail. If we only read the provision of the BOL, the BARMM functions as an autonomy true to the spirit of the Bangsamoro peace agreements. It is the leaders and the people of the BARMM themselves who will chart their own destiny and maximize its full potential.

With the three-year of the BTA’s term of office, we should all work together to help ensure that the body will be able to successfully carry out its deliverables especially in ensuring the continuity of the initiatives started by the previous BTA, as well as the passage of the BARMM’s remaining codes. While it is okay for us to air our views on governance in the region, it is our hope that our opinions will be constructive and not in any way, sow fear, divisiveness, and animosity among our Bangsamoro brothers and sisters. Let us also use our energies not merely to criticize the BARMM government, but also to offer viable recommendations on how the body can further improve its performance and better serve the Bangsamoro people.

We hope that through this letter, we have been able to shed light on the issues raised by Mr. Lanto. Thank you very much for giving us the space to air our side.

Sincerely yours,

Head, Communications
and Public Affairs Services
Office of the Presidential Adviser
on Peace, Reconciliation and Unity

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