MILF vows to help make 2022 polls peaceful in Bangsamoro region

KORONADAL CITY (MindaNews /16 October) — The former rebel group Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) will help the military in securing and ensuring a peaceful and orderly 2022 national and local elections in the Bangsamoro region, Bangsamoro Interim Chief Minister Ahod Ebrahim said Friday.

Ebrahim, concurrent MILF chair, and Maj. Gen. Alfredo Rosario, Jr., Western Mindanao Command (WesMinCom) chief, met at the Bangsamoro government center in Cotabato City over the weekend to discuss the peace and order situation in the Bangsamoro region, including the holding of next year’s elections.

“We will help make the elections peaceful and non-violent,” Ebrahim said in a video report produced by the Bangsamoro Information Office.

Moro Islamic Liberation Front chair Murad Ebrahim, using his real name Ahod “Murad” Balawag Ebrahim, votes for the first time in his life on 21 January 2019 during the plebiscite for the ratification of the Bangsamoro Organic Law at the Simuay Junction Central Elementary School in Sultan Kudarat town, Maguindanao. MindaNews photo by MANMAN DEJETO

He noted that the MILF had earlier established the United Bangsamoro Justice Party (UBJP), a political party that is advocating, according to him, peaceful, honest and orderly elections.

The UBJP has fielded candidates for several local positions in some parts of the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM). The region comprises Maguindanao, Lanao del Sur and the island provinces of Basilan, Sulu and Tawi-tawi and the cities of Marawi, Lamitan and Cotabato and the 63 villages in North Cotabato that voted for inclusion in the BARMM during the 2019 plebiscite.

Congress has approved the postponement of parliamentary elections in the BARMM from 2022 to 2025 but local elections in the region will push through along with the national polls.

The Senate ratified last September 27 the bicameral conference committee report postponing the 2022 parliamentary elections, effectively extending the term of the MILF-led Bangsamoro Transition Authority (BTA), the interim body governing the Bangsamoro government, for three years.

Under the reconciled version of the Senate and the House of Representatives, the 80-member BTA shall continue as the interim government in the Bangsamoro region. The President may appoint the 80 new interim members of the BTA who shall serve up to June 30, 2025 or until their successors shall have been elected and qualified.

President Rodrigo Duterte, who earlier expressed support to the extension of the transition period, has not yet signed the bill into law. Under the legislative process, if the President does not act on a proposed law submitted by Congress, it will lapse into law 30 days from receipt.

The creation of the Bangsamoro region is a key component of the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro (CAB), the peace deal signed by the government and the MILF in 2014 after 17 years of negotiations.

The CAB’s Annex on Normalization mandates the decommissioning of the 40,000-strong MILF and their weapons, which is still ongoing.

As of Friday, Ebrahim said the Bangsamoro government has not monitored any challenging security situation that could jeopardize the holding of the 2022 elections in the region.

He noted that many candidates running for various local positions in the Bangsamoro region are related by blood or affinity with each other.

Ebrahim appealed to the contending parties to refrain from resorting to violence to push their bid.

For his part, Rosario assured that the military in the area will remain non-partisan during the elections.

He said the governors and the military commanders in various parts of the region have been in close contact and that there’s no big problem that emerged so far related to next year’s elections.

“We hope and pray that this will be more peaceful compared to the 2019 elections,” Rosario said. But the military, he assured, is prepared for any eventuality. (Bong S. Sarmiento / MindaNews)