MILF political party gears for 2016 polls
John Unson (The Philippine Star) - December 18, 2014 - 12:25pm

MAGUINDANAO - Stakeholders on Thursday welcomed the start of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front's (MILF) conversion from a revolutionary group to a political organization, aiming to pit candidates for local positions during the 2016 elections.

The MILF announced on Wednesday that it has filed an application for the United Bangsamoro Justice Party's (UBJP) accreditation from the Commission on Elections so the group can field candidates for local positions and elective posts in the Bangsamoro government.

“This is a very positive indication that the MILF will now pursue its struggle for peace and development in Mindanao’s predominantly Muslim areas through peaceful political initiatives. This is a very positive development, a pro-people, pro-peace initiative and worthy of our support,” said Gov. Mujiv Hataman of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM).

Hataman, who belongs to the administration’s ruling Liberal Party, even volunteered to help the MILF disseminate to the public the importance of its political venture to the propagation of "culture of peace" among local communities and in the promotion of socio-economic stability in the proposed Bangsamoro core territory.

The ARMM’s scattered provinces of Maguindanao, Lanao del Sur, Basilan, Sulu and Tawi-Tawi, will become the main bastions of the Bangsamoro if the enabling measure for its creation, the draft Bangsamoro Basic Law, passes Congress and enacted into law and ratified via a plebiscite in 2015.

The MILF central leadership is expecting thousands of Moro volunteers to pledge support and allegiance to the UBJP on December 23 in Camp Darapanan in Sultan Kudarat, Maguindanao.

Party secretary-general Sammy Al-Mansour told the Mindanao Cross that the participants to the first ever gathering of applicants to UBJP's "volunteer bloc" will come from provinces and towns included in the proposed territory of the Bangsamoro political entity.

“These volunteers planning to join the UBJP will play big, very important roles in the forthcoming 2016 elections in the Bangsamoro homeland,” Al-Mansour said.

The applicants to UBJP membership will converge in Camp Darapanan, the MILF’s main bastion, located in northwest of Sultan Kudarat.

“This is part of our preparations for the political empowerment of the Moro people that are major stakeholders to the on-going peace initiatives of the MILF and government,” Mansour said.

Peace activist and Mindanao autonomy expert Fr. Eliseo Mercado, Jr., director of the Institute for Autonomy and Governance  (IAG) in Cotabato City, said politics, governance and peace dialogues are the best means of addressing socio-economic, political and social issues besetting underdeveloped and troubled areas.

The IAG, a partner of the Konrad Adenauer Stiftung of Germany, is engaged in cross-section dialogues and educational programs meant to educate Mindanao’s culturally-pluralistic communities and their leaders on the importance of interfaith and political cooperation to hasten the attainment of peace and sustainable development in the country’s troubled south.

For Mercado, the use of guns and violence as a means of seeking redress are not just outmoded and primitive, but counter-productive as well.

Even the governor of Maguindanao, Esmael Mangudadatu, now in his second term as chief executive of the province, said his administration is in favor of the MILF’s fusion into the political mainstream via its newly-formed UBJP.

“The political arena, under Mindanao and Philippine settings, is the best venue where all sectors can wage a peaceful and democratic struggle for the protection and welfare of the Bangsamoro people,” Mangudadatu said in a text message.

The military has assured to help provide security to the participants to the first ever UBJP conclave in Darapanan on December 23.

Major Gen. Edmundo Pangilinan, commander of the Army’s 6th Infantry Division, said their security efforts will be facilitated under the guidance of the joint government-MILF ceasefire coordinating committee.

“These are peaceful and very democratic activities that run parallel with the peace efforts of His Excellency, President Benigno Aquino III,” said Pangilinan, who was deputy commander for the peace process of the Western Mindanao Command in Zamboanga City prior to his assumption as 6th ID commander last May 2014.

AUTONOMY AND GOVERNANCE BANGSAMORO BANGSAMORO BASIC LAW CAMP DARAPANAN MAGUINDANAO MILF MINDANAO PEACE POLITICAL SULTAN KUDARAT
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