MILF party to field candidates in 2016 for regional gov’t only, not for local  

SULTAN KUDARAT, Maguindanao (MindaNews / 24 December) – The Moro Islamic Liberation Front’s proposed political party – the United Bangsamoro Justice Party (UBJP) — will field candidates in 2016 not for local but for regional posts only, MILF chair Al Haj Murad Ebrahim said.

“What we are thinking is during the 2016 elections, we will not field candidates for governors and mayors….. We will focus on (fielding candidates for) the Bangsamoro government kasi yun na man ang bunga ng peace process (because that is the fruit of the peace process),” Murad told MindaNews late Tuesday afternoon at the first of the three-day 1st Volunteers’ General Assembly.

MILF chair Al Haj Murad Ebrahim, concurrent chair of the United Bangsamoro Justice Party. MindaNews photo by GG Bueno
MILF chair Al Haj Murad Ebrahim, concurrent chair of the United Bangsamoro Justice Party. MindaNews photo by GG Bueno

Earlier, Sammy Al Mansoor, Chief of staff of the Bangsamoro Islamic Armed Forces (BIAF) and concurrent UBJP Secretary-General, said they were expecting at least 26,000 volunteers to attend the Assembly. But Murad claimed “more than that” number had come from all parts of Mindanao.

Thousands of volunteers clad in collarless green shirts bearing the party’s name and the statement on the back that it is a “principled party,” gathered here for the Assembly that, according to Murad, would serve as orientation for those who will organize the party at the grassroots.

“My party, Your Party, Our Party,” the shirts proclaim.

Murad’s cool green collared shirt has the 2013 seal of the UBJP with “A Principled Political Party” below it.

At least 60 seats

The draft Bangsamoro Basic Law, based on the Philippine Government’s (GPH) and the MILF’s March 27, 2014 Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro, provides that the Bangsamoro Government shall be parliamentary and “shall adopt an electoral system suitable to a ministerial form of government, which shall allow democratic participation, encourage formation of genuinely principled political parties, and ensure accountability.”

The Bangsamoro Parliament, according to the draft law “shall be composed of at least sixty members, unless otherwise provided by the Parliament, who are representatives of political parties elected through a system of proportional representation, those elected from single member districts and to reserved seats to represent key sectors in the Bangsamoro.”

The Chief Minister who heads the ministerial government of the Bangsamoro is to be elected by a majority vote of the Parliament from among its members.

The Chief Minister in turn appoints the Deputy Chief Minister from among the Members of Parliament, and the members of the Cabinet, majority of whom shall also come from the Parliament.

Comelec requirements

Mansoor had earlier said the MILF was busy completing the requirements for registration with the Commission on Elections. The party’s officials, Mansoor said, are Murad as chair, assisted by five vice chairs: Ghazali Jaafar, MILF Vice Chair for Political Affairs as vice chair for Central Mindanao, Maamor Estino for Western Mindanao, Hussin Munoz for Eastern Mindanao, Alim Ali Solaiman for Northern Mindanao and Mohagher Iqbal, MILF peace panel chair and Bangsamoro Transition Commission, for Southern Mindanao.

No vehicle pass, no entry. Members of the MILF's Bangsamoro Islamic Armed Forces (BIAF) inform this volunteer late afternoon of December 23 that he cannot proceed to the camp using his motorcycle if he has no vehicle pass. On the left side of the junction is a patrol car of the Philpipine National Police. Joint govenrment and MILF forces have been deployed to the site of the 1st Volunteers' Assembly of the MILF's political party.  MindaNews photo by Carolyn O. Arguillas
No vehicle pass, no entry. Members of the MILF’s Bangsamoro Islamic Armed Forces (BIAF) inform this volunteer late afternoon of December 23 that he cannot proceed to the camp using his motorcycle if he has no vehicle pass. On the left side of the junction is a patrol car of the Philpipine National Police. Joint govenrment and MILF forces have been deployed to the site of the 1st Volunteers’ General Assembly of the MILF’s political party. MindaNews photo by Carolyn O. Arguillas

Murad said their application for a regional party was filed with the Commission on Elections in October this year.

In August, Murad told MindaNews that they were proposing three names for the party: UBJP, United Bangsamoro Party and the Bangsamoro Justice Party. “But the number one is the United Bangsamoro Justice Party,” he said.

Grassroots organizing

Murad explained that after organizing the regional structure of the political party, they organized the provincial structure and the congressional district “so now we are moving into grassroots organizing.”

He said they called on members of the BIAF, the armed wing of the MILF which will soon be undergoing a process of decommissioning, the political committees of the MILF and non-governmental organizations, to volunteer for the party.

Murad said volunteers will later become “card-bearing members.”

He said a Task Force Ad Hoc Committee was set up, headed by Mansoor, to undergo a series of seminars and workshops on political party building as well as exposure trips on the parliamentary system such as those in Malaysia, Japan through the Japanese International Cooperation Agency, Germany through the Konrad Adenauer Foundation, Aceh and Catalan in Spain, among others.

Some two weeks ago, a group of personalities from former conflict-affected areas came to Darapanan to share their experiences – from El Salvador, Colombia, South Africa, Aceh.

Murad said the UBJP will not be confined only within the proposed area of the Bangsamoro.

“We are a regional party, that is, Mindanao and the islands in the entire Mindanao.” He said they will also have headquarters in Davao, South Cotabato, Sarangani.

Hundreds of Moro women attend the three-day 1st Volunteers' Assembly of the MILF's political party, United Bangsamoro Justice Party, but the Assembly is still predominantly male. MindaNews photo by Gail Ilagan
Hundreds of Moro women attend the three-day 1st Volunteers’ General Assembly of the MILF’s political party, United Bangsamoro Justice Party, but the Assembly is still predominantly male. MindaNews photo by Gail Ilagan

Asked for the vision of their political party, Murad opened his folder and read from a document, that it would be known for its “integrity, commitment and competence in governance and in providing services to the people regardless of their age, gender, tribe, culture, educational background social economic status, religious and political orientation and affiliation.”

“We’ve been promoting principled political party. This means this political party has a definite direction, a roadmap , that it is not only interested in getting political positions but also most importantly, to ensure that the vision and mission and the program of government, that’s where our struggle would be (is fulfilled)… Every member has to be committed to the mission and vision of the party,” he said.

Murad said they are aware of the challenges given that the 2016 election is just 17 months away.

Another form of struggle

“We feel this is another form of struggle. That’s why are preparing everything that is needed in order to support our struggle this 2016,” he said.

“We are not expecting magic. This is another struggle that we need to undertake,” he said.

“Even if we say matalo kami sa 2016, hindi kami manalo (Even if we say we will lose in 2016, we won’t win) but then the party will still be there. We will continue to struggle.. through the political party.”

“Imposible naman na di kami makakuha ng seats sa 2016 … kahit na di majority halimbawa (It is impossible for us not to win seats in 2016… even if it’s not the majority for example). But we will struggle to become the majority,” he adde.d

Murad said they are open to possibilities of becoming allies with other political parties but noted that strategy for 2016 is not to field candidates for the local elections to avoid competing with possible allies.

If the UBJP fields candidates, he explained, “dadami kalaban mo” (you’ll have more enemies), a possibility they cannot afford because “we will also solicit the support of local governments for the parliament.” (Carolyn O. Arguillas / MindaNews)

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