After plebiscite, MILF chief says hardest struggle ‘will be the struggle against ourselves’

COTABATO CITY, Philippines – Murad Ebrahim sees the road ahead, and he knows its challenges.

“Our hardest struggle,” said the chairman of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), “will be the struggle against ourselves.”

Murad faced reporters hours after he voted yes in the plebiscite on Monday, January 21, to ratify the Bangsamoro Organic Law (BOL) that his former separatist group helped craft. 

The law mandates the MILF to lead the transition to the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM). Murad himself will likely be named the first chief minister of the new region.

The MILF is confident of victory in 4 provinces and 2 cities in Muslim Mindanao. As of posting, the Commission on Elections has yet to release official results although partial, unofficial counts show a tight vote in areas such as Cotabato City and Isabela City.

BARMM is designed to be more powerful and autonomous than the current Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM). 

A “yes” victory will be a victory for the MILF, which waged a rebellion for more than 3 decades until it signed a peace deal with the previous Aquino administration 6 years ago. 

Majority of Filipino Muslims said in a recent survey that they think the MILF is capable of running BARMM. 

Ready to govern

Murad said that while it is true that MILF leaders and members have no governance background, they have been long been preparing for the day that they fully relinquish the armed struggle and start governing the region.

“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.

Murad recalled that many times in the past, the MILF was offered to take over the leadership of the current ARMM. But they said no, he said, because the current regional structure does not give Muslim provinces and towns enough autonomy on how to use resources and live according to their own traditions.

Many have said that ARMM is a failed experiment that remained dependent on Manila.

Murad said the BOL made sure the new region would be an improvement from ARMM.

For example, BARMM will have its own Commission on Audit that will work hand in hand with the main auditing office in Manila. 

The double audit system will address past flawed auditing practices in the region, Murad said.

Murad said that in the past, auditors will come from Manila and will just sign off on documents, too scared to question government officials.

It is hoped that multiple audits would reduce corruption, Murad said.

Murad also cited a provision in the BOL that bans two relatives or family members from occupying seats in the parliament at the same time. 

“So for us, we consider this as another labor of struggle. And for me, I always tell my people that this is not the end of the struggle but another struggle which could be more difficult. Because maybe our enemy is ourselves,” Murad said. – Rappler.com