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MILF leader is special guest at ARMM Charter Day

Maj. Gen. Arnel Dela Vega of the Army’s 6th Infantry Division sits with Ghazali Jaafar during the state of the region address of Gov. Mujiv Hataman of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao in Cotabato City. John Unson
COTABATO CITY, Philippines — The Moro Islamic Liberation Front joined on Monday the 28th anniversary celebration of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao, the existence of which it has been rejecting since 1990.
 
Ghazali Jaafar, first vice chairman of the MILF Central Committee, was special guest at the state of the region address on Monday afternoon of ARMM Gov. Mujiv Hataman.
 
The state of the region address was the highlight of the region’s 28th regional charter day.
 
Jaafar is also chairman of the Bangsamoro Transition Commission, more known as BTC, a partner of President Rodrigo Duterte in pushing the Mindanao peace process forward. He said he attended the SORA event, on Hataman’s invitation, to show that the government and the MILF are working together to end the five-decade-long conflict in parts of Mindanao.
 
The MILF has consistently rejected the now 28-year-old ARMM as a solution to the quest of Moro sectors for self-governance.
 
The group wants ARMM, which has a constitutional charter, the Republic Act 9054, replaced with a Bangsamoro government through the proposed Bangsamoro Basic Law.
 
The MILF boycotted the 1990 plebiscite for the ratification of ARMM’s pioneering charter, RA 6734, that resulted in the grouping together of Maguindanao, Lanao del Sur, Sulu and Tawi-Tawi under the autonomous region.
 
It also did not participate in the amendment of RA 6734 to RA 9054 through a subsequent regional referendum in 2001 to include the island province of Basilan and Marawi City in Lanao del Sur in the ARMM.
 
Jaafar said they do not find Hataman an adversarial governor owing to his oft-repeated promise to step down if a new Bangsamoro region is created by law.
 
The BBL, an enabling measure needed to repeal the ARMM charter, was drafted by the Jaafar-led BTC, which is comprised of commissioners representing the MILF and Malacañang.

Thousands of kilometers of road projects

In his SORA, possibly the last if ARMM is deactivated via the BBL, Hataman outlined his administration’s big-ticket infrastructure projects in the past five years.
 
The autonomous region has built more than a thousand kilometers of concrete roads connecting towns in the region. It has also rehabilitated roads through Moro rebel communities in far-flung areas.
 
Hataman, citing reports by government engineers and state auditors, said in Sulu alone, workers are to complete in the coming months the concreting of the remaining 15 kilometers of the circumferential road encircling the province, traversing about a dozen towns.
 
Sulu is still struggling to rise from the adverse effects of conflicts and security problems caused by the presence there of the Islamic State-inspired Abu Sayyaf.
 
Jaafar told reporters they acknowledge the accomplishments of the present ARMM leadership as complementary to the socio-economic goals of the envisioned Bangsamoro government.
 
“We in the MILF do not reject peace and development initiatives for the Bangsamoro people and the current ARMM government is good on that,” he said.
 
Jaafar emphasized, however, that they remain firm on their stand that only a Bangsamoro government, which the MILF and the government have agreed to establish after almost two decades of negotiation, is the most durable solution to the decades-old Mindanao Moro uprising.
 
He said the MILF also appreciates Hataman's commitment to facilitate a smooth transition, even midterm, from ARMM to a fledgling Bangsamoro government once the law is passed and ratified.
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