MILF’s Iqbal a registered voter since 2013

DAVAO CITY (MindaNews / 5 March) —“I am a registered voter.”

This is the disclosure of Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) chief negotiator Mohagher Iqbal during a press briefing here Thursday.

Amid cheers and exhortations, a beaming Iqbal showed reporters the back portion of the voter’s identification card issued to him by the Commission on Elections (Comelec) to prove his claim. However, he asked that the card not be photographed up close, obviously to conceal his true name.

Iqbal, who hails from Datu Odin Sinsuat town, said that he registered as a voter in Maguindanao sometime in 2013, although he did not reveal whether he cast a vote during the midterm polls.

Iqbal’s being a registered voter as well as his remaining hesitation to disclose his identity outside the Moro revolution signifies the state of transition the MILF is currently in as a result of the Framework Agreement on the Bangsamoro (FAB) that it inked with government October 2012, and subsequently, the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro (CAB) signed March 27 last year.

Through the CAB, the MILF has agreed to end its rebellion against the Philippine state in exchange for granting the Moro people with a truly meaningful political autonomy, to be embodied in the envisioned Bangsamoro Entity.

By abandoning the use of force as a method to achieve its goals, the MILF committed to decommission its armed wing—the Bangsamoro Islamic Armed Forces (BIAF)—and set up a political party as its principal means for contesting elective seats in government.

On Saturday, March 7, the Comelec will conduct a special registration in Camp Darapanan, the MILF’s administrative complex in Sultan Kudarat, Maguindanao.

The historic exercise is expected to net around 2,000 voters, mostly combatants who have already started the countdown towards the day they will ultimately abandon their guns.

Despite the recent threats of scuttling the peace process, Iqbal said their stronghold communities and mass supporters remain hopeful the milestones set in the transition roadmap the rebel group agreed with government will push through.

But the need to respond to the challenges posed by the fallout of the tragic clash in Mamasapano, Maguindanao last Jan. 25 has derailed the transformation of the MILF into a democratic institution.

Iqbal said the MILF central committee’s oversight of activities related to the formation of the United Bangsamoro Justice Party (UBJP) had to give way to a focused attention on dealing with the Mamasapano incident.

“But we are not losing hope,” he assured.

The UBJP was launched Dec. 23 last year in Camp Darapanan.

Throughout its existence as a revolutionary organization since 1984, the MILF has shunned participation in electoral exercises, although it has not prevented its members, acting on their own, from doing so.

The upcoming plebiscite on the Bangsamoro Basic Law, slated to be passed by Congress middle of this year, will be the first time it has officially sanctioned participation in Philippine elections. (Ryan Rosario / Contributor)