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MILF determined to join 2016 elections through political party

/ 05:48 PM October 12, 2014
Mohagher Iqbal. INQUIRER FILE PHOTO

Mohagher Iqbal. INQUIRER FILE PHOTO

COTABATO CITY, Philippines — The Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) is determined to participate in the 2016 elections through its political party, in a move that it says will show its resolute move away from rebellion and war.

Mohagher Iqbal, chairman of the MILF peace panel, told reporters in a side interview during the launching of the European Union Journalism Awards here Friday, the MILF’s participation in the political exercise would shift the group’s paradigm away from the bullets and towards the ballots by participating in the elections.

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“We already started to organize the MILF political party because as a group coming from a conflict situation to a peace settlement situation, we have to engage in a regular political exercise, meaning not through the bullets anymore but through the ballot,” said Iqbal, who heads the MILF panel in the peace negotiations with government, which ended in the signing of the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro early in April.

But when asked who would run and for what positions, Iqbal said he did not know yet, saying it would be premature to give details.

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He added, though, that the Bangsamoro Transition Commission (BTC) would help prepare the MILF leadership for the prospect.

“In the interim, there will still be the Bangsamoro Transition Authority, but after that, it’s a free for all,” Iqbal said.

“Whoever wins will run the Bangsamoro government,” he added.

The draft Bangsamoro Basic Law, or the law that will provide how the Bangsamoro shall be governed, will still have to be passed and ratified by Congress, before it is submitted to the people in a plebiscite.

Peace Adviser Teresita Delez earlier said in an interview in Davao City that both panels have been hoping to complete the decommissioning of MILF forces before the 2016 elections to allow the group to participate in the elections.

“There have been talks of setting up a political party but I hope the decommissioning will be completed before 2016 because it would be unthinkable for an army to participate in the elections,” Delez said.

Although the symbolic decommissioning of MILF forces already started as soon as the draft Bangsamoro Basic Law reached Congress last month, the MILF can only effect the decommissioning of 30 percent of its forces upon the ratification by Congress of the Bangsamoro Basic Law, which would provide for a stronger autonomy for Muslim Moros.

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Iqbal said the decommissioning of another 35 percent would take effect upon the organization and the establishment of Bangsamoro police; and another 35 percent, after the full implementation of all the agreements and the documents they have signed.

“Decommissioning does not mean you have to surrender or destroy your firearms,” Iqbal said.

“May nakakabit ang mga iyan (there are conditionalities attached to each of its phase),” he said.

“The first phase includes the symbolic decommissioning once the draft of the proposed law is submitted to Congress. It’s only when Congress passes and ratifies the Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) that the MILF will undertake the decommissioning of 30 percent of its arms,” he added.

He said another 35 percent of the MILF armed forces would be decommissioned after the establishment of the Bangsamoro police. “Full decommissioning can only begin once all agreements and documents (they have signed) are implemented in the Bangsamoro,” he said.

Iqbal also expressed confidence that Congress would pass the BBL before June 2015.

“I think BBL will pass through Congress,” Iqbal said.

“We have been very consistent in saying that we trust the collective wisdom of the members of Congress,” he added.

He described the reception of the peace agreement among Christian communities as generally “warm,” noting the enthusiasm and warm reception expressed by Cotabato Archbishop Orlando B. Quevedo and Fr. Eliseo Mercado Jr. in Cotabato City, although fears have been expressed in Basilan and Zamboanga City, which Iqbal said were unfounded. When asked about the critics and spoilers, he said, “That’s a reality for all peace settlement, but what’s important is, at the end of the day, we’ll be able to handle all those issues and move forward until we finally settle them.”

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TAGS: 2016 elections, Bangsamoro Basic Law, Catholic Church, Eliseo Mercado Jr., MILF, Mohagher Iqbal, Orlando B. Quevedo, peace process, Politics, Regions
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