Moros symbolically register to vote
CAMP DARAPANAN, Sultan Kudarat—With their wives and children in tow, members of the secessionist Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) from different parts of Maguindanao trooped on Saturday to register as voters for the first time in a special registration exercise set up by the Commission on Elections (Comelec).
The first-time registrants included 200 “base and field commanders and their deputies” of the MILF, unarmed and wearing civilian clothes, who lined up for what local officials called a “symbolic satellite registration,” a Comelec initiative in the wake of widespread public outrage over the massacre of 44 Special Action Force commandos in Mamasapano, Maguindanao, on Jan. 25 and the resulting doubts about the peace agreement that the government signed with the rebels last year.
The highest MILF official to have registered as of 4 p.m. was Von al Haq, who stands as spokesperson for the rebel group and is a member of the MILF central committee.
Ghadzali Jaafar, the MILF first vice chair, said that he welcomed the Comelec initiative but would register as a voter only after the Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) is passed and ratified.
Jaafar said the MILF leadership appreciated the government for coming up with the satellite voter registration for MILF members.
“They are all very eager to take part,” said Al Haq. “This is part of our preparations to lead our own government.”
Al Haq, who is also chief of the Bangsamoro Islamic Armed Forces, said the event was merely ceremonial and as many as 1,500 MILF members and supporters participated.
Udtog Tago, the Maguindanao Comelec officer, said the registration exercise was smooth and orderly .
Rey Sumalipao, Comelec director for the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao, said more satellite registrations were to be conducted and these would be held in all 204 barangays proposed to be part of the “Bangsamoro entity.”
Among those who said it was his first time to register as a voter was Bashir Kalim, who looked to be in his 40s.
As early as 7 a.m., Kalim, who had his wife with him, was already waiting for his turn to enter the room where he would fill out the voter registration form.
“I registered myself along with my wife because we know that this is needed in the forthcoming plebiscite. It would be useless if there are many [Muslims] but we are not registered,” said the father of four.
Kalim said he understood the BBL was facing uncertainty and he was responding to the call of the MILF leaders for combatants like him to register as voters. With Jeoffrey Maitem, Inquirer Mindanao; Tina Santos and Nikko Dizon, Metro Manila; AFP
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