MILF and MNLF in Lanao Norte: “Let Christians and Muslims vote, free of threats and intimidation”

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DAVAO CITY (MindaNews /03 February) – “Let the Christians and Muslims in Lanao del Norte vote on the Bangsamoro organic law free of threats and intimidation.”

Uniting behind the campaign for “yes” vote to include six Lanao del Norte towns in the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM), members and representatives of mujahideens of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) and the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) made this appeal in a statement issued on Friday in Cagayan de Oro City.

“A meaningful Bangsamoro transition is founded on a free and credible plebiscite on the BOL in Lanao del Norte on February 6,” said the joint statement signed by 15 members of the MILF’s North Western Mindanao Front and five from the MNLF’s Border and Lanao del Norte commands, at the end of a two-day Reflective Listening Forum on the February 6 plebiscite on RA 11054 or the Organic Law for the BARMM.

Members of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front’s North Western Mindanao Front and the Moro National Liberation Front’s field commanders in Lanao del Norte review the contents of their Joint Statement appealing for a free and credible plebiscite on February 6, 2019. MindaNews photo by RICHEL V. UMEL

The towns of Balo-I, Munai, Nunungan, Pantar, Tagoloan and Tangkal voted “yes” to inclusion in what was supposed to be an expanded Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) in 2001 but remained with Lanao del Norte because Congress did not pass a law merging and constituting them into a province in the ARMM.

The February 6 plebiscite will determine whether or not the six towns (out of 22) will be part of the BARMM. Under the law, even if these towns vote yes, they can be part of the BARMM only if the 16 other towns of Lano del Norte also say “yes.”

To ensure an orderly conduct of the plebiscite, the MILF and MNLF said they would prefer that soldiers of the Armed Forces of the Philippines “oversee the poll process” to thwart attempts by what they refer to as “dynastic forces” to intimidate voters and to ensure that “these sinister designs are neutralized.”

They cited the January 21 plebiscite in Cotabato City as orderly “partly due to the role of AFP soldiers and the police in running the polling precincts.”

“If we left these dynastic forces to their whims and caprices, we allow them to turn back the clock to the time of bitterness, animosity and violence,” the statement read.

“High hopes”

The joint statement also asked President Rodrigo Duterte to “tell the mayors and other political leaders of Lanao del Norte to support the BOL as this embodies the measures to ensure the dawning of peace in Mindanao.”

Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process Carlito Galvez, Jr. on Saturday urged mayors and barangay to “help ensure a peaceful and orderly” plebiscite.

“Our commitment for a peaceful and orderly plebiscite demonstrates our pledge to uphold our democratic ideals, providing equal opportunities to freely cast our votes despite differences in opinion,” he said, adding he hopes the vote would “truly reflect our sentiments for peace and development in the Bangsamoro” and not influenced by political patronage or intimidation.

A mujahideen of the Bangsamoro Islamic Armed Forces walks through a muddy three-kilometer stretch of access road to Camp Bilal in Tamparan, Munai, Lanao del Norte on January 27, 2019. The Office of the Presidential Adviser on the  Peace Process has committed 30 million pesos for a road concreting project. MindaNews photo by RICHEL V. UMEL

The MILF and MNLF said they have “high hopes” that the Bangsamoro organic law will “signal the dawn of peace in our communities, and provide us the solid foundation for empowerment and economic advancement.”

But they expressed alarm that “dynastic forces” are “out to thwart the realization of these peace gains” by campaigning against inclusion of the six towns in the BARMM.

“Through sheer repression and oppression strategies, these forces are trying to stir rejection of the BOL in a bid to preserve their political bailiwick. While we respect their opinion and stand on the BOL, their methods are very suspicious, seemingly hiding a dark plot,” the statement read.

It cited “massive information and disinformation” as well as threats to cut off conditional cash transfer and senior citizen benefits to those who will vote “yes.”

They also expressed concern that “poll officials in several towns like Linamon, Tagoloan and Poona-Piagapo have shown clear bias against BOL advocates.”

“If we left these dynastic forces to their whims and caprices, we allow them to turn back the clock to the time of bitterness, animosity and violence,” it said

The statement did not name the “dynastic forces” but was apparently referring to the Dimaporos who are the incumbent Governor and representatives to Congress of the first and second districts.

Fear

The statement did not name the “dynastic forces” but was apparently referring to the Dimaporos who are the incumbent Governor and representatives to Congress of the first and second districts and who are all seeking reelection in May.

The Dimaporos, whose patriarch Ali, started his political career in 1950, have repeatedly said they are for the Bangsamoro organic law but not for the division of Lanao del Norte.

Galvez explained to mayors and barangay captains of Lanao del Norte on Saturday that the proposed inclusion of the six towns “does not divide the province but further widens and democratizes our opportunities for economic development and political empowerment” and is an “opportunity for reform in governance.”

While the MILF and MNLF expressed concern about the alleged intimidation by the Dimaporos, Rep. Mohamad Khalid Dimaporo alleged the MILF is “desperately resorting to ‘fear’ tactics.

On February 1, the Dimaporo scion, who had earlier served as three-term Governor, posted on his Facebook page a link to a story on Philippine National Police (PNP) Director General Oscar Albayalde leading the security preparations for the plebiscite. He wrote: “The MILF is desperately resorting to “Fear” tactics for the Feb 6 plebiscite. The PNP is committed to ensure our province stays safe and peaceful. Let your voice be heard. Be deaf to their campaign strategy of veiled threats. Vote “NO” to Inclusion of our municipalities!!!”

On January 31, the Province of Lanao del Norte’s Facebook page quoted Governor Imelda Dimaporo, Khalid’s mother, as saying their political opponents are taking advantage of the issue of the Bangsamoro law by “providing misinformation, by misleading the people that we, the Dimaporo do not support the BOL, when in fact our two Congressmen were instrumental for the passage of RA 11054.”

Lanao del Norte Governor Imelda Quibranza-Dimaporo leads campaign for a “no” vote in the February 6 plebiscite on the inclusion of six towns into the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao. Photo courtesy of the Province of Lanao del Norte FB page

The governor said their political opponents are “using this platform to discredit us politically for the coming election in May.”

Among the MNLF signatories to the statement are Sehawi Pendaton, Secretary of the MNLF Border Command; Ali M. Bagayan, Brigade Commander and Abiden Sanguila, Commander of the MNLF Border Command.

Among the MILF signatories, all from the North Western Mindanao Front are Ibra Amaikurot, Deputy Front Commander; Ali M. Bagayan, Brigade Commander and Abdulsamad Bato, MILF Deputy 102nd Base Command; Ustadz Jamal Malaco, Secretary of the Fornt; Khalid Sultan, Spiritual Adviser; and Edris Limug of the Front’s Committee on the Bangsamoro organic law.

The North Western Mindanao Front is headed by Abdullah Macapaar, more popularly referred to as “Commader Bravo.” The commander has been campaigning for a “yes” vote.

“Bravo’s” base, Camp Bilal is located in Munai town, one of the six towns sought for inclusion in the BARMM. (Carolyn O. Arguillas / MindaNews)  

 

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