DARAPANAN, Sultan Kudarat, Maguindanao (MindaNews/20 May) – The victory of the President’s party in last week’s elections is victory for the peace process, Al Haj Murad Ebrahim, chair of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) said.
“We’re quite happy that in the results of the election in both local and national level, the administration candidates dominated. So I think there will be no reason for the government not to push through with the processes in the negotiation when they have… majority (in) Congress,” Murad told MindaNews Friday afternoon at the reception hall of the Office of the MILF Peace Panel.
He said they hope the victory of the Liberal Party, the President’s party, “will be an advantage because we are relying much on the sincerity and the capability of the government to implement the (peace) process.”
Murad also said the MILF will start building a political party “within this year” in preparation for the 2016 elections when the first set of officials of the Bangsamoro is expected to be elected.
“Within this year, we will start already (setting up the political party).” Murad said in mixed English and Pilipino.
Murad said they will form a political party because “we want to maintain the status of the MILF as an Islamic organization and the political party will be the arm of the MILF for the political process.”
Murad said they have yet to name the party but it will definitely contain the word “Bangsamoro.”
The Philippine government (GPH) and MILF peace panels signed on October 15 last year the Framework Agreement on the Bangsamoro (FAB). After the elections, they are supposed to complete the annexes on Wealth-sharing, Power-sharing and Normalization, to complete the comprehensive peace pact for the establishment of the Bangsamoro, the new autonomous political entity that would replace the 23-year old Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM).
MILF chair Al Haj Murad Ebrahim at the MILF Peace Panel’s office in Camp Darapanan, Sultan Kudarat, Maguindanao on May 17. MindaNews photo by Toto Lozano
The FAB also provides for the creation of a Transition Commission that would draft the Bangsamoro Basic Law. When the Basic Law is done, it will be submitted to Congress with the President certifying it as urgent and once passed by Congress will be submitted to a plebiscite in the core areas comprising the five-province, two-city Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao, the six towns in Lanao del Norte (Baloi, Munai, Nunungan, Pantar, Tagoloan and Tangkal) and the barangays in the towns of Kabacan, Carmen, Aleosan, Pigcawayan, Pikit and Midsayap that voted for inclusion in the 2001 plebiscite; the cities of Cotabato and Isabela in Basilan and all other contiguous areas where there is a resolution of the local government unit or there is a petition of at least ten per cent of the qualified voters in their area.
The future “Bangsamoro” will, as agreed upon by the GPH-MILF, have a ministerial form of government.
Murad acknowledged that in last week’s election, “nag dominate pa rin ang 3Gs (guns, goons, gold). But he said he is confident that in the proposed Bangsamoro Basic Law, “we can at least gradually change the system because unless you change the system, we do not see a future for the electoral process because we observed that the 3Gs still dominate.”
The MILF is going to face two electoral processes between now and 2016: the plebiscite for the ratification of the Bangsamoro Basic Law and the election of the first set of officials of the “Bangsamoro” political entity in the May 2016 elections.
This year’s polls served as a preview to the plebiscite and the May 2016 polls with many MILF members voting for the first time. The MILF was perceived as supporting the candidacy of Tucao Mastura for governor of Maguindanao. Mastura lost to reelectionist Esmael Mangudadatu. His defeat raised doubts about an “MILF vote.”
Murad explained that “not all the MILF supported Tucao Mastura. There are those who voted also for the other side. We did not endorse any candidate so members were free to choose who they would vote for, who can help in the peace process. Not all voted because there are those who are not registered voters.”
While not citing figures, Murad acknowledged “marami” (many) registered in the general re-registration in the ARMM last year.
“In preparation for this year’s election?” MindaNews asked.
“Actually it’s not for this election. The preparation is actually for the plebiscite. We encouraged them to register in preparation for the plebiscite,” Murad said.
Murad is pleased that the peace process was carried as an election issue by candidates from both the administration and the opposition.
He said judging from the statements of Mangudadatu before the election, “he has been expressing his support to the Framework Agreement.”
“Actually, even during the campaign period he was also very, very supportive … of the Framework Agreement. In fact, he also thanked the MILF pronounce(ment) of neutrality (in) the election.”
He expressed confidence that the Bangsamoro Basic Law that would be crafted by the Transition
Commission would pass smoothly in Congress.
“Well that is our expectation but you know the politics in the Philippines …But we are really banking on the statement of the elected officials expressing their support to the Framework Agreement and also the President’s.” (Carolyn O. Arguillas/MindaNews)