Sat. May 25th, 2019

BTA says normalization objective is top priority

Hadji Murad Ebrahim during his first meeting with reporters as BARMM chief minister.

COTABATO CITY — Malacanang and the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao will resolve clan wars to hasten the decommissioning of Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) combatants.

MILF’s figurehead, Hadji Murad Ebrahim, told reporters late Friday that Presidential Peace and Reconciliation Adviser Carlito Galvez, Jr. has assured to help them reconcile feuding clans in the BARMM to complement the normalization agenda of the newly-established regional government.

Ebrahim, appointed chief minister of BARMM, also leads the Bangsamoro Transition Authority (BTA) tasked to set up the new and more empowered regional government replacing the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao.

Major Gen. Cirilito Sobejana of the Army’s 6th Infantry Division in central Mindanao and Chief Supt. Graciano Mijares of the Police Regional Office-BARMM have said in separate statements emailed earlier that they are ready to help the office of Ebrahim broker the settlement of conflicts involving big Moro clans and groups identified with local MILF leaders.

The BARMM covers the scattered provinces of Maguindanao, Lanao del Sur, Basilan, Sulu and Tawi-Tawi that originally belonged to ARMM.

Cotabato City and 63 barangays in North Cotabato province, both inside Administrative Region 12, are also now under BARMM, a product of 22 years of peace talks between the government and the MILF.

“There is a need to settle as early as possible some `rido’ (clan wars) involving MILF commanders, conflicts involving certain families in preparation for the decommissioning process,” Ebrahim said.

He said Galvez, former Armed Forces chief, has committed to help in reconciling rival families in the core territory of BARMM.

Ebrahim said the BTA is aware that unsettled family feuds can cause reluctance among protagonists to lay down their firearms for them to be reintegrated into mainstream communities the BARMM government intends to rebuild via socio-economic and humanitarian interventions.

The 6th ID and the Maguindanao Task Force Reconciliation and Unification under the office of Gov. Esmael Mangudadatu settled more than a hundred clan wars since 2011, some of them involving MILF field commanders.

The conflicts were sparked by landownership issues, affronts to clan honor and political rivalries.

Peace advocacy groups, some operating with the help of foreign benefactors, blame the weak judicial system in Moro areas due to lack of prosecutors and judges as main cause of proliferation of clan wars.

The Maguindanao provincial peace and order council, chaired by Mangudadatu, whose third and last term as governor will end on June 30, announced on Saturday its readiness to help the BARMM settle clan wars.

The two peace compacts between Malacañang and the MILF — the September 2012 Framework Agreement on Bangsamoro and the March 2014 Comprehensive Agreement on Bangsamoro — both aims to restore normalcy in conflict-affected communities via a disarmament program complemented with livelihood projects.

Ebrahim said the BARMM will focus on extensive health, strategic infrastructure, education and social welfare programs in the coming months.

Muhaquer Iqbal, MILF’s former chief negotiator, is now BARMM’s education minister.

Ebrahim will manage on concurrent capacity the public works department of the now defunct ARMM.
Ebrahim said he has not revamped yet the personnel structure of the department.

“The agency has not been restructured either. We will still initiate an evaluation process,” Ebrahim said.

He said he has presided over two cabinet meetings in the executive building of ARMM, now BARMM’s operation center, since his assumption to office early this week.

John Unson

John Unson, The Philippine Star's writer and the president of the Kampilan Defense Press Corps (KDPC) based in Sixth Infantry Division (6th ID) at Camp Siongco, Datu Odin Sinsuat, Maguindanao.