From bullets to ballots: MILF chair Murad votes in school where he learned to read and write

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COTABATO CITY  (MindaNews / 20 January) – On Monday, January 21, Al Haj Murad Ebrahim, chair of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), will return to the school where he learned to read and write, this time to cast his vote to formally end the nearly 51-year armed struggle and move on to the parliamentary struggle.

“First time ko bumoto” (It is my first time to vote), said the 71-year old Murad, who joined the armed struggle 50 years ago in 1969, first with the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) and later the MILF.

Like Murad, thousands of mujahideens and their families are expected to troop to the polls on Monday, most of them first-timers like Murad, to ratify RA 11054 or the Organic Law for the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao.

Murad is voting in Simuay Junction Central Elementary School where he spent all of his elementary years – Grades 1 to 6. The school was built in 1953 and is located some 200 meters from the entrance to what is now the MILF’s Camp Darapanan.

MILF chair Al Haj Murad Ebrahim returns to Simuay Junction Central Elementary School in Simuay, Sultan Kudarat, Maguindanao, the school where he learned to read and write, to cast his vote to ratify RA 110454 or the Organic Law for the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao on 21 January 2019. MindaNews photo taken on January 16 by MANMAN DEJETO

Murad was one semester short of completing his civil engineering degree at the Notre Dame University in this city when he joined the MNLF’s “Batch 300” in 1969.

He was Vice Chair for Military Affairs of the MILF and Chief of Staff of the Bangsamoro Islamic Armed Forces during the “all-out war” in 2000 under the Estrada administration, and the Buliok war under the Arroyo administration in 2003.

in a concurrent capacity he served as MILF peace panel chair from early 2001 — when Vice President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, who took over from ousted President Joseph Estrada, waged an “all-out peace” — until he assumed the post of MILF chair in July 2003, after MILF chair Salamat passed away due to an illness.

Once ratified, RA 11054 will pave the way for the creation of the Bangsamoro, the new autonomous political entity that would replace the 28-year old Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) and hasten, among others, the normalization process, including the decommissioning of 30% of the MILF’s weapons and forces, in accordance with the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro that the MILF signed with the government on March 27, 2014.

The law provides for the “basic structure of government in recognition of the justness and legitimacy of the cause of the Bangsamoro people and the aspirations of Muslim Filipinos and all indigenous cultural communities in the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao to secure their identity and posterity, allowing for meaningful self-governance within the framework of the Constitution and the national sovereignty as well as territorial integrity of the Republic of the Philippines.”

The law provides that the ARMM is deemed abolished upon its ratification.

It also provides for a three-year transition period where the 80-member MILF-led Bangsamoro Transition Authority (BTA) will govern the BARMM in a parliamentary system until the first set of officials is elected in May 2022.

Under the peace agreement, the President will appoint the 80 BTA members. Murad, the MILF’s nominee for the top post of Chief Minister, told MindaNews last Friday that they had already submitted the names of the 41 nominees of the MILF to the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process for 41 BTA seats.

Murad is the MILF’s nominee to the post of Chief Minister of the BTA.

MILF chair Al Haj Murad Ebrahim registers as a voter in September 2018. Photo courtesy of Bangsamoro Transition Commission

Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process Carlito Galvez, Jr., told MindaNews Sunday night that his office “will set a very rigid criteria 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 Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) that they should put their best people – who could effectively, efficiently and conscientiously run the Bangsamoro Government,” He said.

Galvez added that they are recommending the “composition of a BTA Selection Committee with equitable representations from concerned parties and government agencies.”

“Our desire and intent is to recommend the (President’s) appointment of only those true public servants who will place common good, public interest and people’s welfare above all things,” he said.

The law provides that pending the constitution of the BTA and to “foreclose any political interregnum in the governance of the region,” the 25 incumbent elected officials of the ARMM and the 20-member Bangsamoro Transition Commission that drafted the Bangsamoro basic law, “shall act as caretakers of the administration of the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region until the Bangsamoro Transition Authority is constituted.”

A total of 2,165,316 registered voters in the ARMM’s Maguindanao, Lanao del Sur, Basilan, Sulu and Tawi-tawi and the cities of Marawi and Lamitan; as well as the cities of Cotabato and Isabela will troop to the polls on Monday, January 21, while at least 600,000 voters in Lanao del Norte and North Cotabato will vote on February 6 to finally determine the territorial jurisdiction of the BARMM. (Carolyn O. Arguillas / MindaNews)

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