Murad Ebrahim, who led the Moro Islamic Liberation Front through peace talks with 3 administrations, now faces the daunting task of governing the autonomous region whose creation he fought for
After decades spent fighting for Moro self-rule, Al Haj Murad Ebrahim has been named as the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region's interim Chief Minister.
This was formalized in a ceremony held on Friday, February 22, in Malacañang where President Rodrigo Duterte led the oath-taking of newly-appointed Bangsamoro Transition Authority (BTA) members.
"I am also pleased to announce the appointment of MILF chairman Al Haj Murad Ebrahim as interim Chief Minister of the Bangsamoro Transition Authority," said Duterte in his speech after the oath-taking.
As Chief Minister, Murad will head the BTA, the entity that will lead the new Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM) in its first few years.
The 80 members of the BTA were also named on Friday. However, no list of the appointees has been provided to media as of press time.
Murad's appointment was expected since he was chairman of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), the Muslim group that had negotiated peace agreements with the government which eventually led to the Bangsamoro Organic Law (BOL).
Under the BOL, the MILF is tasked to lead the BARMM in its critical transition period, 2019 until 2022, when the new region will elect its leaders for the first time.
'Exhausted' means to prepare himself
Speaking to Rappler a day after the first successful Bangsamoro plebiscite, Murad had said he had done all he can to prepare himself for the role of chief minister.
"I’ve exhausted all means to prepare myself and to prepare my people," he had said.
Murad knows the task ahead is daunting.
"This period is the difficult struggle and it is a struggle against ourself. Basically because we see that unless we are able to change, to eradicate all the ills of the government, the corruption, the nepotism, all of this, then it just be a change of leadership, but the same system," he said.
"Our success for change is we have to really change ourselves," he added.
Murad's long struggle
The MILF's long history of talking peace with the government began in 1996 during the Ramos administration. The MILF was then under Hashim Salamat. Murad at the time led the MILF's armed forces, called the Bangsamoro Islamic Armed Forces (BIAF).
The cold and calculating BIAF commander would take the reins from Salamat when the latter died in 2003. After the Estrada administration's "all-out war" against the MILF, the group engaged with the government again under Gloria Macapagal Arroyo.
Murad had almost tasted victory then with the signing of the Memorandum of Agreement on Ancestral Domain (MOA-AD) which creates the so-called Bangsamoro Juridical Entity. It was initially scrapped by the Arroyo administration amid questions over its legality, and later struck down by the Supreme Court as unconstitutional.
With its eye on the prize, the MILF under Murad got back up to negotiate with the administration of Benigno Aquino III.
In 2012, Murad witnessed the signing of the Framework Agreement on the Bangsamoro, which laid the groundwork for the BOL and brought about the first round of decommissioning of MILF combatants and arms.
Finally, on January 29, 2019, the BOL was ratified by the Bangsamoro people, thereby creating the BARMM, a new region with more powers, more resources, and a parliamentary system of governance said to give the Moro people a better chance at self-rule.