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MILF fighters expected to enlist as voters

PEACE ADVOCATE A Muslim woman joins a gathering in Metro Manila in July to call for peace as lawmakers discuss the proposed law creating a new Bangsamoro region. —LYN RILLON

KORONADAL CITY — From bullets to ballots.

Majority of the 40,000-strong Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) are expected to enlist in the three-day special satellite voter’s registration conducted by the Commission on Elections (Comelec) starting on Tuesday, a rebel leader said.

The special registration was held in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) and other areas in the proposed new Bangsamoro region specifically for the plebiscite to ratify the Bangsamoro Organic Law (BOL).

Recognition

Von Al Haq, spokesperson for the Bangsamoro Islamic Armed Forces, the armed wing of MILF, urged their troops to register.

“It is important for MILF combatants to register so they can (finally) exercise their right of suffrage,” he said.

In the past, the MILF observed a “hands-off” policy involving political exercises.

Al Haq said the ratification of the BOL would answer the centuries-old quest of the Bangsamoro people for recognition. He said they were expecting “99 percent” of their 40,000 fighters to register.

Ray Sumalipao, ARMM Comelec director, urged residents in areas covered by the plebiscite to register.

“We want to get as many potential voters involved in the plebiscite in consonance with the spirit of the Bangsamoro Organic Law,” he said.

President Rodrigo Duterte, speaking before the Filipino community in Jordan on Sept. 7, vowed to campaign for the BOL ratification in the plebiscite scheduled on Jan. 21, 2019.

Sumalipao said the satellite registration centers would accommodate applications for voter’s registration, transfer of registration, reactivation, change, or correction of entries and inclusion, or reinstatement of records.

Non-Muslim voters

The special satellite registrations will be held in the provinces of Lanao del Sur, Maguindanao, Basilan, Sulu, Tawi-Tawi, Lanao del Norte and North Cotabato, and in the cities of Cotabato and Isabela.

Edgardo Ramirez, ARMM’s deputy governor for Christians, also called on non-Muslim qualified voters to register.

ARMM has a population of 4 million, based on the 2015 census of the Philippine Statistics Authority.

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