MILF forms political party for 2016

Mohagher Iqbal

Mohagher Iqbal


Germelina Lacorte
COTABATO CITY, MINDANAO

THE Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) is now starting a political party that will bring the group waging over four decades of war in Mindanao to participate in the 2016 elections.

Mohagher Iqbal, chair of the MILF peace panel, told reporters in a side interview during the launch of the European Union’s Journalism Awards here on Friday that the MILF’s involvement in the political exercise would finally shift the group’s paradigm away from bullets and toward ballots by participating in the elections.

“We have 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 bullets anymore but through the ballot,” said Iqbal, who heads the MILF panel in the talks with the government that ended with the signing of the peace agreement early this year.

He didn’t know yet who would run and for what positions, Iqbal said. It was premature to divulge the details, he added.

The Bangsamoro Transition Commission would help prepare the MILF leadership for the prospect, he said. “In the interim, there will still be the Bangsamoro Transition Authority, but after that, it’s free for all,” Iqbal said.

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

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

Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process Teresita Deles earlier said in an interview in Davao City that both panels hoped to complete the decommissioning of MILF forces before the 2016 elections to allow the group to participate in the elections.

“I hope the decommissioning will be completed before 2016 because it would be unthinkable for an Army to participate in the elections,” Deles said.

Although the symbolic decommissioning of MILF forces already started as soon as the draft BBL reached Congress last month, the MILF can only effect the decommissioning of 30 percent of its forces once Congress ratifies the law.

Iqbal said that the decommissioning of another 35 percent will take effect once the Bangsamoro police is established; and another 35 percent, after all the signed agreements and documents are fully implemented.

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

“There are conditionalities attached to each of its phases,” he said.

“[In] the first phase, which includes the symbolic decommissioning once the draft of the proposed law is submitted to Congress, [it is] only when Congress passes and ratifies the BBL that the MILF will undertake

30 percent of its arms,” he added.

He said that another 35 percent will take effect once the Bangsamoro police is established.

“Full decommissioning, which takes place after the MILF undertakes another 35 percent of its forces, can only begin once all the agreements and documents [they have signed] are implemented in the Bangsamoro,” he said.

Iqbal also expressed confidence that Congress will pass the BBL before

June 2015.

“I think the 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 also described the reception of the peace agreement among Christian communities as generally “warm,” noting the enthusiasm and the warm reception expressed by Cotabato Archbishop Orlando B. Quevedo and Fr. Eliseo Mercado Jr. in Cotabato City, although fears are being expressed in Basilan province and Zamboanga City, which Iqbal said were unfounded.

About critics and spoilers, he said: “That’s a reality for all peace settlements, 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.”

Philippine Daily Inquirer

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