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A step closer to peace in Mindanao

"We wish to see the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao already up and running."

 

We may have gone a step closer to achieving elusive peace in Muslim Mindanao with the latest news report confirming the death of Owaydah Marohombsar, alias Abu Dar, one of the leaders of the Maute group that laid siege on Marawi City in May to October 2017.

Dar was among the four terrorists killed by government troops during an encounter in Tuburan, Lanao del Sur last March 14. Military officials believe Dar was the only terrorist leader who escaped when government forces liberated Marawi City from the Islamic State-linked Maute group. He was regarded as the successor of Isnilon Hapilon, the emir of IS in Southeast Asia who was also killed in Marawi along with the Maute brothers.

Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana and officials of the Army’s 1st Infantry Division cited the results of the DNA tests conducted on Dar’s body by US forensic experts. “It is confirmed. It is Abu Dar’s remains,” Lorenzana said.

Dar had a lengthy criminal record. The military claimed Dar was responsible for bombing the Limketkai commercial area in Cagayan de Oro in 2016 where several doctors were killed. He was also behind the killing of several soldiers, policemen and Christians in Marawi City and the province of Lanao del Sur.

With the Maute group’s leader now neutralized, the military is monitoring who will probably replace Dar.

“The neutralization of Abu Dar is a significant accomplishment of the government and the people of Lanao del Sur who worked together to rid their province of terrorists. Meanwhile, we will continue our operations so that the sacrifices of our fallen comrades in pursuit of peace will not go to waste,” a top military official in Mindanao was quoted as saying.

But will the death of Abu Dar finally put an end to the Islamic-State-supported terrorist groups, such as the Abu Sayyaf, that still manages to engage the military in skirmishes every now and then?

The answer to that is that we’ll have to wait and see.

Meantime, we wish to see the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao already up and running so that the Moro Islamic Liberation Front that has waged a decades-long armed struggle for self-rule can lead the process of establishing genuine autonomy within the framework of the Constitution.

Few overseas Pinoys participating in absentee voting

While at this, we’d really like to know why only a third of all overseas Filipinos are interested in absentee voting.

According to the Commission on Elections (Comelec), they are hoping to have at least a 30-percent turnout in the overseas absentee voting for the midterm polls.

Since the start of overseas voting on April 13, turnout has been low. Despite this, the commission still hopes to breach the 30 percentage mark, as was the turnout in the 2016 presidential polls.

According to Comelec data, voter turnout for the presidential elections in 2016 was at 31 percent.

Elaiza Sabile-David, director in charge for the overseas voting, earlier said turnouts during midterm elections had always been low.

She disclosed that during the 2013 midterm elections, overseas turnout was only at 16 percent. However, the turnout for the presidential elections was 31 percent.

“Voter turnout declines during midterm elections because people are more interested in voting during presidential elections”, she said. “One of the problems is the lack of information for voters. So the way to address the low voter turnout is to provide more information, announcements, and notices to voters. Candidates should also introduce themselves. That would be a big way to encourage people to vote.”

According to David, election officers are also reaching out to the families of overseas Filipino workers here in the Philippine to participate in a voter’s education program. That’s because overseas Filipinos often rely on their families in the country for information about candidates running in the elections.

There are 1,822,173 registered voters overseas, mostly from the Middle East and Africa.

If 30 percent of that number will vote in the midterm polls, that would be around 540,000 overseas voters. But if it’s only 16 percent, that’s a measly 288,000 Filipinos overseas, out of nearly 2 million, interested—and seriously concerned—about the future of the country and willing to take time off from their work to fill up ballots. How about the 1.7 million overseas Filipinos? Are they too busy to perform a basic civic duty? Or have they written off the country’s future leaders as utterly hopeless?

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Topics: Ernest Hilario , peace in Mindanao , Muslim Mindanao , Owaydah Marohombsar , Abu Dar , Maute group , Marawi City siege

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