The 15-member Bangsamoro Transition Commission (TransCom) of the Philippine government (GPH) and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) will have its first meeting on Wednesday, April 3, not in any of the Bangsamoro areas in Mindanao but in Pasig City in Metro Manila.
A media advisory from the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process (OPAPP) media director in Mindanao said the GPH and MILF “will come together to formally introduce to the public” the members of the TransCom “through the ceremonial opening of their first official meeting” at the Crowne Plaza Hotel, Ortigas Center in Pasig City from 10 a.m. to 12 noon. That meeting is expected to be even shorter since the same advisory says a press conference is “tentatively scheduled at 11:30 a.m. to 12 p.m.”
“It’s just ceremonial,” MILF peace panel chair Mohagher Iqbal, who will also chair the TransCom, replied when asked why they agreed to having the first meeting in Pasig.
The first TransCom meeting was described last week as “first en banc meeting” but this week was changed to “ceremonial opening of their first official meeting.”
In a press statement on March 25, Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process Teresita Quintos-Deles said they are “pleased to announce that the first en banc meeting of the 15-member Transition Commission has been set in the first week of April” and on the fourth of a six-paragraph statement said President Aquino had sought the postponement of the GPH-MILF talks in Kuala Lumpur that had been scheduled for March 25 to 27.
The TransCom, a body agreed upon by the GPH and MILF in their Framework Agreement on the Bangsamoro (FAB) of October 15, 2012, was created under Executive Order 120 issued by President Aquino on December 17 and supported by resolutions from the two houses of Congress.
Its main task is to draft the Bangsamoro Basic Law in preparation for the “new autonomous political entity” called “Bangsamoro.” The new entity will replace the 23-year old Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) which will have its last elections on May 13. But the supposed three-year term of office of ARMM officials will be cut short as soon as the Basic Law shall have been passed by Congress and ratified by the people in the Bangsamoro.
According to the FAB, “upon the promulgation and ratification of the Basic Law…. the ARMM is deemed abolished” and the Bangsamoro Transition Authority takes over until the first set of officials that will govern the new entity by noon of June 30, 2016, shall have been elected in the May 2016 polls.
The EO provides the following tasks of the TransCom, in accordance with the FAB: “draft the Bangsamoro Basic Law with provisions consistent with the 2012 Framework Agreement on the Bangsamoro; whenever necessary, to recommend to Congress or the people, proposed amendments to the 1987 Philippine Constitution; and whenever necessary, to assist in identifying and coordinating development programs in the proposed Bangsamoro in conjunction with the MILF Bangsamoro Development Agency (BDA) and the Bagnsamoro Leadership and Management Institute (BLMI)” and for this purpose, “may likewise coordinate with such other relevant government agencies and/or non-government organizations.”
It also adds these tasks: “coordinate and conduct dialogues and consultations with the National Government and various stakeholders in furtherance of its functions; and perform such other relevant functions as the President may hereinafter direct.”
The names of the TransCom members were announced on February 25.
The TransCom is composed of eight members from the MILF and seven from the GPH.
The MILF’s Iqbal will now have three roles: MILF peace panel chair, MILF information chief, and TransCom chair.
The TransCom members appointed by President Aquino are: Akmad A. Sakkam, Johaira C. Wahab,. Talib A. Benito, Asani S. Tammang, Pedrito A. Eisma. Froilyn T. Mendoza and Fatmawati T. Salapuddin.
The MILF on the other hand selected eight members: Iqbal, Maulana Alonto, Abdullah Camlian, Ibrahim D. Ali, Raissa H. Jajurie, Melanio U. Ulama, Hussein P. Munoz and Said M. Shiek – all of them members of the MILF peace panel: Iqbal is peace panel chair. Alonto and Camlian are members; Jajurie, Ulama and Sheik are members of the Technical Working Groups while Munoz, more popularly known by his commander’s name, Sonny Davao; and Ali, an aleem, are consultants.
Jajurie is a lawyer while Sheik is head of the MILF’s Coordinating Committee on the Cessation of Hostilities.
On the GPH side, only one from the GPH peace panel was named to the TransCom: lawyer Wahab, chief of the legal panel.
Wahab, who hails from Maguindanao, and who topped the Foreign Service Officer examination given out by the Department of Foreign Affairs last year, is the youngest TransCom member. She turned 28 on March 25.
Iqbal, the TransCom chair, is turning 65 this year.
Women and Lumads
The GPH members to the TransCom are lawyer and former ambassador Sakkam from Indanan, Sulu; Prof. Benito, Dean of the King Faisal Center for Islamic, Arabic and Asian Studies at the Mindanao State University in Marawi City; lawyer Tammang, a former congressman from Panamao, Sulu; former Isabela City councilor Eisma of Basilan; Mendoza, aTeduray who co-founded the Téduray Lambangian Women’s Organization, Inc. (TLWOI) while Salapuddin was director of the Sulu-based Lupah Sug Bangsamoro Women’s Association and is at present the Director of the Bureau of Peace & Conflict Resolution of the National Commission on Muslim Filipinos.
Of the 15 members, four are women (Wahab, Mendoza and Salapuddin from the GPH and Jajurie from the MILF) while two are from the Lumads (Indigenous peoples): Mendoza from the GPH and Ulama from the Organization of Teduray and Lambiangan Conference, from the MILF.
Tausugs dominate the TransCom membership: Sakkam, Tammang, Salapuddin and Jajurie, Camlian describes himself as “Tausug/Sama/Banguingi from Zamboanga City and Basilan.”
The Maranaos have three members in the TransCom: Benito, Alonto and Shiek; the Kagans have Munoz and for the Iranuns, Ali.
The MILF base is in Maguindanao but there are only two Maguindanaons in the TransCom: Iqbal and Wahab.
The OPAPP media advisory said GPH and MILF officials will grace the Pasig meeting.
From the GPH, the advisory said Secretary Deles, GPH chief negotiator Miriam Coronel Ferrer and panel members Senen Bacani, Mehol Sadain and Bai Yasmin Busran-Lao will be present along with Executive Secretary Paquito Ochoa, Secretary to the Cabinet Jose Rene Almendras, Social Welfare Secretary Corazon “Dinky” Soliman, Local Governments Secretary Mar Roxas and Justice Secretary Leila de Lima will be present..
The MILF will be represented by Iqbal, “Prof. Abhoud Syed Lingga, Datu Antonio Kinoc, and Mike Pasigan and others.”
The media advisory did not say if the MILF’s senior peace panel member Datu Michael Mastura, would be present.