SOMETHING awful happened on the way to the oathtaking ceremonies of the 80-member Bangsamoro Transition Authority (BTA) on Friday.
While the Palace guests billeted at the Manila Prince Hotel were busy preparing to leave for Malacanang at noon, word had gone around that only the nominees of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) and Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) would take their oath as the government’s supposed “final list” was not final after all.
Ten names were reportedly stricken off the supposed “final list” that morning, barely four hours from their supposed 2 pm call time in Malacanang for the 4;30 pm program with President Duterte.
At the end of the day, only 76, according to presidential adviser on peace, reconciliation and unity Carlito Galvez Jr. were able to take their oath.
Galvez on Saturday said he had no copy of the final list of those whose appointment papers had been signed. “I do not have the list. It should come from Malacanang,” he said.
As of Sunday noon, Malacanang has not released the names of the new appointees..
It is not clear if the President has signed all the appointment papers of the 80 members or only 76 or 72.
Mindanews checked the BTA appointees’ souvenir photographs with Duterte — done in three batches — and counted 72 who took their oath: 26 in Batch 1, 25 in Batch 2 and 21 in Batch 3.
The photographs per batch have a total of 10 women who took their oath: four in Batch 1, three each in Batches 2 and 3.
Asked about this, Galvez replied that “based on our latest coordination with OP (Office of the President), we have 76. The remaining (four) will be filled up by OP. Honestly speaking, the 80 is already filled. We are just completing the vetting process and clearance procedures.”
alvez said the clearances were not submitted on time for the oathttaking.
Asked if these “clearances” referred to the “replacements,” he replied: “No comment.”
He maintained 76 had taken their oath.
Last month, Galvez said they set a “very rigid criteria” for the selection of the 80-member BTA, according to the President’s guidance “to get only honest, sincere and competent people to ensure that good governance will be in place.”
“We are respectfully requesting both the MILF and the MNLF that they should put their best people who could effectively, efficiently and conscientiously run the Bangsamoro government… Our desire and intent is to recommend the appointment by the President of only those true public servants who will place common good, public interest and people’s welfare above all things,” he said.
The names of the appointees were not announced ahead of the oathtaking, unlike the Bangsamoro Transition Commission (BTC) whose members were named on Feb. 10, 2017 and who took their oath of office at the launch of the BTC on Feb. 24, 2017 in Davao City.
In the case of the BTA, the nominees who had been informed that they made it to the short list and the supposed “final list,” declined to accept greetings of “congratulations.”
“Not yet until it’s really final” was a common reply of those who were reportedly on the list of 39.
Under the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro and its enabling law, RA 11054 or the Organic Act for the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (Barmm), the MILF will lead the BTA, the body that will govern the Barmm until June 30, 2022 when its first set of officials shall have been elected and had taken their oath.
The MILF nominated 41 members to the BTA while government nominated 39.
Galvez had in fact called for a meeting of the 39 at the Manila Prince Hotel on Wednesday, the supposed oathtaking day. The event had been rescheduled by Malacanang to Feb. 22, giving the 39 time to get to know each other during Wednesday’s four-hour-and-thirty minute introductory meeting and briefing on the role of the BTA.
But those who attended said Galvez was frank enough to say they were on the list as of that day.
On Thursday afternoon, one of the nominees said they were sent via SMS guidelines, including the dress code the following day in Malacanag “but no official word that we have been appointed.”
One of the reminders was that they would enter Gate 4 starting at 2 pm and should be seated at 3 pm for the event scheduled at 4:30 pm with the President.
On Friday morning, at 10:24 am the 39 government nominees on the supposed “final list” received urgent text messages from the staff of Galvez for an 11 am meeting at the Manila Prince Hotel, with venue still to be announced
The meeting was where the announcement was supposed to be made on the names that had been stricken off the list. The embarrassment that this would cause the nominees and their families, however, prompted the cancellation of that meeting. Instead, Galvez and other officials from his office sought each of those who were stricken off the list to personally break the bad news.
One of them was already inside a vehicle bound for Malacanang when he received a call not to proceed. Having been stricken off the list meant he could not enter Malacanang as he was no longer on the guest list of the Palace.
Others were preparing to dress up in their hotel rooms when they received a knock on their doors.
Those who were taken out of government’s “final list” that Friday morning would have been assets in the BTA given their work experiences and track records. Also taken out was the supposed second representative for the IPs and the supposed second representative for the settler communities.
“Intense lobbying” from people in power reportedly led to last minute changes as allegations of “dilawan” (yellows) were hurled at the supposed appointees. At least two were dropped from the “final list,” according to sources, because of objections from a member of the Cabinet whose clan is a political rival of their families.
At the Rizal Hall that afternoon, government nominees initially got confused but later realized that some of those they had listened to during the introductory meeting two days earlier, were not around. But there were three new – though familiar – faces who were going to take oath with them.
Galvez on Friday declined to comment on the 10 supposed appointees who were dropped from the list that morning but Duterte told reporters after the oath-taking that he was late for because “may hinabol sila na late. May in-exchange.”
The President was not referring to Galvez’ office but to the OP. (Carolyn O. Arguillas of Mindanews)