November 26, 2020 - Thursday
Website Name Image
Weather icon
25.85 ℃, Broken clouds
Davao City, Philippines

Murad: Running a government is thrice more difficult than running a revolution

September 15, 2019 - Sunday 10:09 PM by MindaNews

Article Banner Image Ahod “Al Haj Murad” Ebrahim, interim Chief Minister of the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM) and chair of Moro Islamic Liberation Front. MindaNews photo by MANMAN DEJETO

Ebrahim joins President Rodrigo Duterte as the latter sounds the agong to signal the inauguration of the BARMM at the Shariff Kabunsuan Cultural Complex in Cotabato City on March 29, 2019. ROBINSON NIÑAL JR./PRESIDENTIAL PHOTO

DAVAO CITY (MindaNews) – Running a government is thrice more difficult than running a revolution, interim Chief Minister Ahod “Al Haj Murad” Ebrahim of the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM), concurent chair of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), said.

Murad told MindaNews in a sitdown interview at the MILF’s Camp Darapanan on Sunday that starting a revolutionary organization was “talagang (really) very challenging” but “it has run for decades already so wala na masyadong problema” (there’s not much problem).

Running a government bureaucracy, however, is “mas (more) problematic. Triple yung feeling ko. Tatlong beses” (Three times), he said.

Murad has been at the helm of the BARMM since February 26, 2019 when Mujiv Hataman, then Governor of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) handed over the five-province, two-city regional government to Murad.

But BARMM, created by Republic Act 11054 or the Organic Law for the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao, and ratified in a plebiscite early this year, covers more areas than the ARMM: plus Cotabato City and 63 villages in six North Cotabato towns.

The BARMM also has a different government set-up than the ARMM as it is parliamentary in form under a presidential, unitary system.

The 80-member Bangsamoro Transition Authority (BTA) which runs the BARMM government during the three-year transition period until June 30, 2022 and which Murad heads as interim Chief Minister, was formally inaugurated on March 29 this year, in rites graced by President Rodrigo Duterte.

“Your region’s future is now in your hands,” Duterte told BTA officials.


Consultative, collective

Murad admits it’s difficult to run a government because “walang experience” in governance (we don’t have experience) but he draws from their experiences in the MILF as a revolutionary organization. “Leadership din ang main factor,” he said.

He explained that within the MILF, they have “always been practising consultative and collective leadership so up to the BARMM” that is what they are following.

In the early days, Murad met the Cabinet twice a week. Now, he says he meets with the Cabinet once a week and reports to the Parliament once a month.

Decision-making, he says, “always comes from the Cabinet.”

“We decide collectively in the Cabinet,” said Murad who lives and works in the BARMM compound on weekdays and in Camp Darapanan on weekends to attend to his other role as MILF chair.

Murad’s Cabinet is composed mostly of the MILF’s Central Committee who are also in the BTA, and those who have been with the MILF peace process for years.


Government in place

Half a year later, what has BARMM achieved?

For Murad, “organizationally, stable na ang organization namin. We have organized all the ministries, fully functioning and then the parliament is also in place and also fully functioning. So basically the government is in place.”

He said they were not able to start new programs because of budget constraints. They inherited the ARMM’s 32-billion peso budget.

Next year, Murad said, the BARMM hopes to receive 70.6 B pesos block grant, inclusive of the five-billion peso Special Development Fund (SDF).

RA 11054 sasy the national government “shall provide an annual block grant which shall be the share of the Bangsamoro Government in the national internal revenue tax collections of the Bureau of Internal Revenue and collections of the Bureau of Customs.”

The law also mandates the national government to provide the BARMM an SDF for the “rebuilding, rehabilitation, and development of its conflict-affected communities.”

The SDF is 50 billion pesos at 5 billion per year for 10 years and will be used in accordance with the Bangsamoro Development Plan.


Most difficult

In the six-month period, Murad considers organizing the bureaucracy as “the most difficult.”

“Hanggang ngayon, nahirapan pa kami. The challenge in the governance (is) we are forming a ministerial form of government which is under a Presidential unitary system.”

He said even the departments at the national level do not seem to understand the set-up of the Bangsamoro government. “Ginagawa nila, they are treating the (BARMM) ministries na lower unit nila” (like their lower units).

“Hindi ganon” (that should not be), said Murad.

The BARMM is a product of the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro (CAB), the peace agreement signed by the government and the MILF in March 2014 to allow for a “meaningful self-governance.”

Murad said these problems could have been avoided if the Inter Governmental Relations Board had been set up.

The law provides for the creation of a National Government–Bangsamoro Government Intergovernmental Relations Body (IGR body) “to coordinate and resolve issues on intergovernmental relations through regular consultation and continuing negotiation in a non-adversarial manner.”

The law says the IGR body “shall exhaust all means to resolve issues brought to it” while unresolved issues would be elevated to the President, through the BARMM Chief Minister.


Like ARMM 

Murad laments that national agencies treat the BARMM the way they treated the ARMM before.

“Para kaming ARMM,” (They’re treating us like we’re ARMM).

He said Senator Ralph Recto even filed Senate Resolution 30, to investigate the status of the implementation of RA 11054.

The Senate Committee on Local Government headed by Senator Franciso Tolentino, scheduled the hearing on August 15 but on August 13 cancelled it without any explanation.

Before its cancellation, Murad had written Tolentino to explain, among others, that the Senate hearing was untimely as the BARMM has been there for less than six months, that the national government itself has to account for the implementation of the Bangsamoro law and that the proper venue for what Recto wanted to find out was through the Philippine Congress–Bangsamoro Parliament Forum that Murad said should be set up immediately. Carolyn O. Arguillas / MindaNews