By Tajallih S. Basman, Business World Correspondent

 

The inaugural session of the Bangsamoro Transition Authority. — BW/TSBASMAN

 

 

COTABATO CITY — The Bangsamoro Transition Authority (BTA) held its first session Friday and elected the officers of the Parliament under the new regional government.

Designated Speaker is Pangalian M. Balingong, a former Lanao del Sur congressman and deputy speaker of the House of Representatives.

Hatimil E. Hasan of the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) is deputy speaker; Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) lawyer Lanang Ali Jr. is majority floor leader; and Laisa Masuhud-Alamia, former executive secretary of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM), is the minority floor leader.

BTA Chief Minister Al Haj Murad Ebrahim, who led the inaugural session that was opened with a prayer, said, “When we started the revolution, we took an oath to the Qur’an. Today, as we start our governance, we will also do the same.”

On March 25, the MILF turned over to the Independent Decommissioning Body the names of around 12,000 of its combatants, representing about 30% of the total.

Mr. Murad, in an earlier interview, said the decommissioned combatants are set to receive benefits that are meant “to convert them into productive members of society.”

Assistant Secretary Dickson P. Hermoso of the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process previously explained that under the peace deal, the MILF will decommission 30% of its forces after the Bangsamoro Organic Law is ratified, another 35% after the regional police force is established, and the last 35% will be towards the exit agreement.

Mr. Murad said the new government of the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM) is focusing on five “pillars” that are intended to address overall development.

“In almost all the human development indices, the Bangsamoro is still at the bottom when contrasted with the national standards,” he said.

The five pillars are: Education, health, economic development, strategic infrastructure, and moral leadership.

“These thrusts in education, health, and economic development must be complemented with responsive strategic infrastructure in the region such as ports, road network, flood control, and logistics and communication facilities,” he said.

On moral leadership, the BTA leader rallied fellow members of the parliament to support the construction of basic social facilities such as school buildings, hospitals, and health centers.

He noted that previous contractors who did not finish their projects should also be made liable.

“At the very least, (they have) to be blacklisted in future projects of the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region,” he said.

He also ordered the Ministry of Basic, Higher, and Technical Education — formerly the Department of Education under the ARMM — to “bury the ghosts” if there are still “wandering spirits in the payroll system.”

“We have been guided in our armed struggle by the tenets of Islam. We will also be guided by the teachings of Islam in delivering the trust that has been given us to run the Bangsamoro government, through the brand of leadership Islam advocates-moral governance,” Mr. Murad said.