• MILF gears for 2016 polls, forms own party

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    ZAMBOANGA CITY: The former rebel group Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) aims to actively participate in the 2016 national elections and has formed its own political party—the United Bangsamoro Justice Party.

    Sammy Al-Mansoor, MILF chief of staff, said the party is already registered with the Securities and Exchange Commission and will seek accreditation with the Commission on Elections (Comelec) next year.

    Al-Mansoor claimed that the Party is gaining the support of Muslims and non-Muslims in Mindanao, especially those in the Muslim autonomous region (composed of the provinces of Basilan, Sulu, Tawi-Tawi, Maguindanao and Lanao del Sur, including the cities of Marawi and Lamitan).

    He insinuated that the party will tackle as a political issue the creation of a BangsaMoro autonomous government, as pushed by the Aquino Administration, claiming that more people are against the idea.

    The installation of a Bangsamoro government will allegedly lead to more armed conflicts as reports of some Muslim groups going to some areas in Mindanao and putting markers in lands that are already owned by Christians. These groups are reportedly bent on claiming the land as part of their Ancestral Domain as soon as the Bangsamoro autonomous government is installed.

    The creation of a Bangsamoro autonomous region will be decided on through a referendum in the autonomous region and in communities with large Muslim presence. The new Bangsamoro region will replace the current Muslim autonomous region that suffered from decades of poverty, corruption, and conflict.

    The Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) will pave the way for the establishment of the Bangsamoro region in 2016.

    Ghazali Jaafar, MILF Vice Chairman for Political Affairs, in his previous statement, doused fears by many groups about the BBL and said it is not an Islamic law.

    “The proposed Bangsamoro Basic Law is not an Islamic Law. These are rules on how to govern the Bangsamoro government. It’s not a law that will alienate the rights of the Filipino people but a law that will provide and facilitate the meaningful and fair implementation of the GPH and MILF Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro,” Jaafar said during an earlier multi-stakeholders forum on the CAB at the Ateneo de Davao University.

    The mineral-rich region of Mindanao, once under the powerful rule of the sultans, is now home to minority Muslims – about 4 million from the region’s 18 million mostly Christian inhabitants.

    The Philippine Statistics Authority describes Mindanao as an underdeveloped region with problems on peace and order to racism.

    “From Spanish era up to the present, it remains underdeveloped compared to Luzon. Problem on peace and order due to political conflict and racism issue had been seen as the main factors of the sluggish development of the island in view of the fact that beliefs and cultural diversities between native inhabitants and migrants are existing [sic]within it,” it said.

    The MILF was a breakaway faction of the Moro National Liberation Front which signed a peace deal with Manila in September 1996.

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