Mohagher Iqbal (File Photo)
COTABATO CITY, Philippines–Despite the swearing on Friday of the 80 members who would compose the Bangsamoro Transition Authority (BTA), former Moro rebels who are joining the government said they could not guarantee success but they would give the interim government of the Bangsamoro their best efforts for the lasting peace in Mindanao.
“We are very happy but at the same time worried because we are facing an unchartered territory in governance,” Mohaqher Iqbal, chief negotiator of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), said.
“We are just humans, I cannot guarantee (our success), but our best efforts is what we can guarantee,” he added.
Reached by phone, Iqbal said their ground commanders were happy and excited with the oathtaking before the President Duterte.
“This is very historic,” he said.
Last month, the Bangsamoro Organic Law (BOL) was ratified by the people and created an expanded autonomous region known as Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao, the final step in the 2014 peace agreement between the government and the MILF.
The law aims to give the impoverished south an expanded autonomous area, offering self-determination to the nation’s four million Muslims by empowering them to elect their own parliament.
Nabil Tan, undersecretary of Presidential Adviser on the Peace process, said the government had been preparing an amnesty package for Muslim rebels who would decommission their weapons.
Tan cited amnesty among the “immediate steps” the government had committed to do for MILF combatants who would return to normal life.
“We’re trying to fast track the amnesty, but you know the amnesty has to be concurred with by Congress, so we’re working on that,” Tan said.
According to Tan, at least 10 commanders of the MILF facing criminal charges and 35,000 to 40,000 guerrillas will be covered by the amnesty based on the list provided to them by the MILF leadership.
“It’s a continuing process. They have submitted already the personalities, but we are trying to track the cases, the courts where they’re filed,” Tan said.
The BARMM will replace the present Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao with additional 63 villages across North Cotabato provinces and Cotabato City.
But Frances Cynthia Guiani Sayadi, the mayor of Cotabato, claimed the government and military officials conspired with the MILF to ensure the inclusion of the city in the new Bangsamoro homeland, an accusation denied by the military.
A delegation of more than 300 former rebels, most of them MILF ground commanders, were in Manila for the oath-taking of their 80-member BTAs before President Duterte.
The BTA would serve as the interim government in the Bangsamoro region until its first elections in 2022.
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