COTABATO CITY — Hundreds of employees of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) and their officials heaved a collective sigh of sadness as they bid goodbye to the autonomous government that they had been serving for the last 29 years.
The symbol of the ARMM, its flag, had been turned over to the Bureau of Cultural Heritage (BCH) following the last flag-raising ceremony for the autonomous government that is giving way to a new one.
Hoisted for the last time, the flag would soon be on display at the new Bangsamoro Museum in the city, a reminder of the autonomous region that the administration of President Benigno Aquino III had described as a failed experiment in Moro autonomy.
ARMM Gov. Mujiv Hataman and his vice governor, Haroun Alrashid Lucman Jr., turned over the flag to the BCH.
Thousands of employees assembled for the flag retreat, carrying a streamer reading: “Thank you and goodbye, ARMM.”
Among employees who spoke at the flag ceremony, Elizabeth Nataño said it was her second time to experience the autonomous government.
The Lupong Tagapagpaganap ng Pook, the body formed in an earlier attempt at autonomy under the late dictator Ferdinand Marcos, had been abolished in 1989 when then President Corazon Aquino signed Republic Act No. 9054 that created the ARMM.
Now, the ARMM is being abolished again to give way to the new Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM) after the new law for its creation was ratified in a plebiscite on Jan. 21 and Feb. 6.
But Nataño, a senior administrative assistant, was only one of thousands of employees who had served the ARMM for decades.
Except for those who work in health, education and social work, around 6,000 permanent employees in the ARMM are expected to lose their jobs as the new Bangsamoro takes over.
Hataman said he was still awaiting the official announcement of the 80 names that President Rodrigo Duterte would appoint to the Bangsamoro Transition Authority (BTA), the body that would serve as interim government before the Bangsamoro’s first regular elections in 2022.
Aside from the 80 people to be named by the President, the BTA will also be composed of 25 elected officials until their terms expire at noon on June 30.
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