The Bangsamoro Transition Authority (BTA) is already halfway to its term as a transition government whose main tasks, among others, is to prepare the legal and organizational requirement for the installation of the regular BARMM government in 2022, set and implement development programs in the region as an affirmative action, rehabilitate communities devastated by wars, integrate former combatants into the mainstream society and to dismantle structures that created violence and to ensure institutional reforms that will prevent the recurrence of hostilities. These are gargantuan tasks to be accomplished within a very limited time. Nevertheless, these tasks are not the sole responsibility of the BTA but also of the national government This is part of the peace agreement stipulated in the BOL.

Study shows and observations reveal that many of these tasks have not been completely accomplished yet. The organizational, legal and political track had succeeded in many respects but still work is not complete. The normalization phase has yet to accomplish a lot of its major targets which will be jointly accomplished by the MILF and the government. The infrastructure to maintain peace and security in the region is yet to be completed. Building the mechanism towards healing, reconciliation and conflict transformation as recommended by the TJRC has barely touched the ground.

Let it be admitted that the process of implementation maybe relatively slow. In fact, there are doables that had not been done. This is understandable from the perspectives of work experience of the BTA under a new form of governance as well as the experience of the BTA leadership in running a government. A former MILF leader said once, “running a revolution is bloody, but running a government is doubly difficult”. This may not be a valid excuse but what do we expect? There is no quick fix to repairing a society devastated by long wars and violence.

According to the Bangsamoro Organic Law (BOL), the exit agreement of the peace process will be signed if all provisions are faithfully accomplished. However, given the many impediments faced by the BTA, the accomplishment of targets to successfully complete the transition might not happen within the timespan of the BTA. Already, local politicians/government officials are gearing for the 2022 national elections and aligning to national parties. Discussion whether the BTA will be allowed to pursue its mandate beyond 2022 and therefore postpone the BARMM elections, or otherwise, have snowballed to the level of communities as some elected officials have clearly made their stand.

For the Consortium of Bangsamoro Civil Society – as CSOs who are major stakeholders in the peace process, the questions we ask and the choices we make center on, but are not limited to, the following:
1. Whom can we attribute the failure to finish the gargantuan tasks assigned to the BTA and the national government?
2. Are the national government and the BTA working hard to finish their tasks?
3. What are the factors that contribute to these work deficits? Is it human factors? Environmental factors? COVID-19? Funding? Or indeed time constraints?
4. What is the best case scenario? Is it elections or extension?
5. Considering that a considerable amount of tasks have not been accomplished, will there be exit agreement?

While we recognize that elections are important part of democratic processes, and many are already itching to be in the helm of power in the BARMM, they are not always the solutions to problems.

If elections will push through as scheduled in 2022, will the MILF be ready to field their candidates, boycott or return to the fold of violence? Most importantly if they join, will they win?

Marginalizing the MILF in major decisions in pursuit of the peace architecture embedded in the peace agreement may not augur well in our search for peace. A deviation of the roadmap under the peace agreement may create tensions that can lead to violence. The history of the MNLF experience is a living witness where former leaders of revolutionary combatants who joined elections were minoritized and eventually marginalized in government key positions.

Fundamentally the transition is not only from the ARMM to BARMM, from the BTA to regular BARMM but most importantly a transition from conflict to peace. Granting an extension for the BTA and the incoming national leaders to conclude their work respectively and jointly under the auspices of the BOL will be the best option to sustain the peace gains.

Considering further that the circumstances behind the failure to complete the required tasks of the BTA on one hand and the national government on the other hand are partly beyond their control and the possibility that no exit agreement will be signed, we the Council of Leaders of the Consortium of Bangsamoro Civil Society (CBCS) has finally declared our choice for peace by supporting the call for the extension of the term of the BTA and postponing the elections of the officials of the BARMM with the option from both the MILF and the national government to retain the present members of the parliament or appoint new ones.

Let the MILF-led BTA and the incoming national leaders conclude the unfinished business of preparing a regular government that will contribute to a peaceful, cohesive, secured and inclusively developed communities in the Bangsamoro.

Agreed and approved by the CBCS Council of Leaders (COL) from the provinces of BARMM and non-BARMM areas on November 24, 2020.