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MILF: Huge challenge ahead

Murad upbeat on vote results even as Comelec defers count

With the plebiscite on the Bangsamoro Organic Law done, Moro Islamic Liberation Front chief Ebrahim Murad said the next great hurdle will be “the struggle against ourselves.”

MILF: Huge challenge ahead
BUT HOW INDEED? With party watchers and election committee officials around, how in the polling precinct can the accused (hidden center and not seen) cast multiple votes as alleged by people already physically attacking him Tuesday in Cotabato—during the vote on giving the Muslim minority greater control over the region. AFP
“We really see this as a really huge challenge because from being revolutionaries, we will be transforming into governance. That will be very challenging because many of us have never been in government,” Murad said.

“Our hardest struggle will be the struggle against ourselves.”

Murad said despite their inexperience, members of his group have long prepared for the day they drop their weapons and begin governing the region.

Despite the hard road ahead, Murad said they are hopeful the MILF’s grievances and aspirations will be finally addressed.

“This is now the start of that process. This is the final stage of the process. After this, we will be establishing our government that will take care our needs and the needs of our people,” Murad said after voting “yes” in the plebiscite.

“With this, we call everybody to pray that we will succeed,” he added.

The Palace expressed hope that a peaceful and progressive Bangsamoro region will develop following the ratification of the BOL.

Presidential Spokesman Salvador Panelo said the recent survey results show the Bangsamoro people have had enough of war, terrorism, and poverty.

“They hunger for peace and thirst for development in Mindanao. And the initial unofficial tally of the votes in the plebiscite appears to validate the survey results,” Panelo said in a statement on Tuesday, welcoming the recent survey results.

“We hope that the aspiration of our Muslim brothers and sisters for a peaceful and progressive Bangsamoro region will commence its realization following the ratification of the BOL,” he added.

Canvassing of votes for the Bangsamoro Organic Law was deferred on Tuesday after the Commission on Elections did not receive any certificates of canvass from Mindanao.

Comelec Chairman Sheriff Abas convened the National Plebiscite Board of Canvassers but immediately called for an adjournment when no COCs arrived at the poll body’s main office in Intramuros, Manila.

Canvassing should begin Wednesday as soon as the COCs arrive, Abas said.

The first day of BOL plebiscite was conducted Monday in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao, Isabela City, and Cotabato City. The next plebiscite date is Feb. 6, which will cover Lanao del Norte (except Iligan City) and six towns in North Cotabato.

The government is pinning its hopes on the BOL to end decades of conflict in Mindanao that have killed more than 100,000 people.

READ: Last chance for Mindanao peace? BOL plebiscite seeks to end conflict

The Comelec said that more than 2 million registered voters in two Muslim-majority areas of Mindanao participated in the referendum that would create a self-governing area called the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao.

In Cotabato City where the voting is expected to be close, the Plebiscite Board of Canvassers had counted 20,836 “no” votes against 27,168 “yes” votes, with 214 out of a total 374 precincts canvassed.

ABS-CBN reported that in Maguindanao and Lanao del Sur, the quick count showed an overwhelming number of “yes” votes.

Senate Majority Leader Vicente Sotto III he was confident that Mindanao would finally shed its history of conflict and enter an age of peace and progress.

Senator Juan Miguel Zubiri said that based on a partial and unofficial quick count of the Bangsamoro Free Election Movement (BFEM), a Comelec-accredited citizen’s arm, the “yes” votes in the ARMM totaled 657,113, as opposed to only 49,304 “no” votes.

He added that the voter turnout of at least 70 percent was higher than the plebiscites held in 1989 and 2001.

With the exception of Isabela City and Sulu Province where the “no” votes have a slim margin over “yes” votes, all other provinces and cities in the ARMM have voted “yes” resoundingly, Zubiri said.

READ: ‘History’s in the making: Peace at stake’

“Today we witnessed an exceptionally high voter turnout of at least 70 percent of registered voters, and for that, I congratulate the Bangsamoro Transition Commission and the Comelec for their serious efforts at intensive dissemination of information in all affected political units and sectoral organizations. We know that our brothers and sisters in Muslim Mindanao will choose the path of just, lasting and dignified peace,” he said.

In Cotabato City, the MILF began a massive clearing operation Tuesday to remove posters and tarpaulins in areas of the Jan. 21 plebiscite, except those put up on orders of Mayor Cynthia Guiani-Sayadi and Maguindanao Rep. Bai Sandra Sema.

Sammy Gambar Al-Mansoor, chairman of the United Bangsamoro Justice Party, said he was personally leading the clearing operation to rid the city of plebiscite propaganda materials. There will be a similar operation in the areas of the ARMM, he said.

Al-Mansoor said both women, his close kin, personified the tough stance that people took on the BOL as they both held their ground.

Sema said she voted “yes” for the future of the Bangsamoro, showing off a right index finger with the indelible ink voting mark at the Sero Elementary School where she cast her vote.

Guiani-Sayadi declared she voted “no” as she emerged from a voting precinct at the Cotabato City Institute, a few meters from the Guiani ancestral home on Parang road and R.S. Buan Street.

Mohaguer Iqbal, chairman of the MILF Panel of Normalization, said the “yes” vote was phenomenal and “unstoppable, much like the ascension of then-Mayor Rodrigo Duterte to the presidency.”

From figures tabulated by the UBJP Legal Team showed the “yes” vote was leading.

Sema said she will be leaving on Jan. 26 for Riyadh on an economic and trade mission of the House of Representatives in a first bold step to open BARMM to foreign business investments.

“The BOL is just a piece of paper. Let us put substance into it by inviting potential investors from the rich Arab world,” Sema said.

READ: BOL wins over 79% of Muslims, says SWS

Topics: Bangsamoro Organic Law , Moro Islamic Liberation Front , Ebrahim Murad , Salvador Panelo
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