By Ali G. Macabalang
BULUAN, Maguindanao – The United Bangsamoro Justice Party (UBJP), an original political arm of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) now ruling the new autonomous region, has staged simultaneous field caravans and rallies to thank lawmakers and President Duterte for the passage of bills extending the regional government transition period, pledging to return the favor via the 2022 synchronized local and national elections.
At the leg here of the region-wide thanksgiving or “shukr” caravans on Saturday, Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM) Senior Minister Abdulraof Macacua said the UBJP in its expanded form would lead mass actions of gratitude to all personalities known for consistent support to processes before, during and after the birth of the new autonomy.
Macacua, known as MILF’s Bangsamoro Islamic Armed Forces (BIAF) chief of staff “Sammy Gambar or Almansoor” explained the UBJP current thrusts in a written message read for him before thousands of supporters by BARMM spokesman and Local Government Minister Naguib Sinarimbo.
“We (have) a shared gratitude towards Allah and His boundless wisdom and guidance that led us to this moment. We are thankful for recent developments in Congress regarding our people’s appeal for an extension of the transition period of the Bangsamoro regional government,” he said.
The Senate approved SB 2214 with 15-3-1votes on Sept. 6, while the House of Representatives passed HB 10121 on Sept. 15 with 187 unanimous votes. Both endorse the reset of the 2022 BARMM parliament election to 2025, effectively extending the Bangsamoro Transition Authority (BTA) lifespan. BTA is BARMM’s interim ruling body.
“Their (lawmakers’) efforts to help ensure just and lasting peace in the Bansamoro are much appreciated,” Macacua said, citing particularly Senator Francis Tolentino and Rep. Esmael “Toto” Mangudadatu, who principally sponsored the bills, as well as President Duterte’s urgent certification.
Macacua said he and other UBJP key leaders came here to express “our deepest thanks to those who have always supported the peace process even before the (birth of BARMM).”
Mangudadatu, sitting then as governor, had hosted six consultative meetings here for MILF and state peace panelists since 2015. The meetings were graced separately by Macacua, Mohagher Iqbal, now deceased Ghazali Jaafar, and Ahod “Hadji Murad” Ebrahim, all sitting then as MILF top brasses.
In one of the meetings, then Gov. Mangudadatu told thousands of audience members that he wanted the peace process to “pave the way for stable peace, and encourage Bangsamoro youth to stop wielding guns in favor of pens.”
“Guns entail violent results, while pens are instruments to earn knowledge for love of God, humanity and peace,” the former governor was quoted as saying in a 2017 published article.
Saturday’s simultaneous “Sukhr” mass actions were also staged in rallies and caravans across Maguindanao, Lanao del Sur, Basilan, Sulu and Tawi-Tawi provinces, and the cities of Cotabato, Marawi and Lamitan – all BARMM component areas – passing through Sultan Kudarat, North Cotabato and Lanao del Norte provinces.
Before reading Macacua’s message, Minister Sinarimbo explained that all acts of reciprocity are being led by the UBJP, which he said has been expanded by the MILF central committee to include BARMM incumbent officials and key workers, elected leaders, and proactive traditional and religious leaders across the autonomous region.
The UBJP was registered with the Commission in Elections ventral office in May 2015 as an official MILF political party, said Sinarimbo.
He later told the Philippine Muslim Today news the UBJP originally involved 100,000 MILF members and now has 170,000-strong membership so far. He said he now serves as UBJP deputy director general, with Minister Macacua as director general, Chief Minister Ebrahim as chairman, and other top MILF and BARMM officials as officers.
Speaking in Maguindanao vernacular before some 30,000 supporters assembled here, Sinarimbo said the UBJP will “actively participate in political activities” starting from calls for bicameral action and enactment of the harmonized bill until the campaign and voting periods for the 2022 synchronized local and national polls.
The “sukhr” rally here was hosted by Rep. Mangudadatu, who welcomed the UBJP’s expressed appreciation, saying his “arduous role” in the passage of HB 10121 was a continuation of his long crusade for peaceful Bangsamoro.
“In like manner, we have taken note of those who openly as well as those who secretly maneuvered to derail this process and endangered the peace process and sabotaged the implementation of the peace agreement that many of our people labored to achieve over a long period of time. We certainly know how to respond in adequate measure when the time comes,” Sinarimbo said.
In a subsequent podcast, CM Ebrahim said Sinarimbo’s message was “not a threat,” neither for a harmful manner of political intervention.
Saturday’s event here was hosted by Rep. Magundanao, who has announced bid for governor, a position he held for nine years, in a bid pitting him against incumbent Gov. Mariam Sangki-Mangudadatu, wife of Sultan Kudarat Gov. Suharto Mangudadatu.
This province has been divided into Maguindanao del Sur and Maguindanao del Norte under R.A. 11550 signed into law on May 27, 2021. But the Comelec in an en banc resolution deferred the conduct of a ratifying plebiscite to “four months after the 2022 elections.”
Maguindanao del Sur constitutes the second district composed of Ampatuan, Buluan, Datu Abdulla Sangki, Datu Anggal Midtimbang, Datu Hoffer Ampatuan, Datu Montawal, Datu Paglas, Datu Piang, Datu Salibo, Datu Saudi Ampatuan, Datu Unsay, Gen. Salipada K. Pendatun, Guindulungan, Mamasapano, Pagalungan, Mangudadatu, Paglat, Pandag, Rajah Buayan, Sharif Aguak, Saydona Mustafa, Sultan sa Barongis, Talayan, and South Upi.
Maguindanao del Norte comprises the first district covering the towns of Barira, Buldon, Datu Blah Sinsuat, Datu Odin Sinsuat, Kabuntalan, Matanog, Northern Kabuntalan, Parang, North Upi, Sultan Kudarat, Sultan Mastura, and Talitay, except Cotabato City.
Pending the ratification of the law, the provincial electorate will have to vote as usual for a single slate of governor, vice governor and provincial board members, election officials said.
Except for Talitay town, all mayors and other elected officials in the rest of 11 municipalities in the first district have already taken mass oath-taking as UBJP members, party officials earlier heralded.
Sinarimbo said they were expecting some elected mayors in the 2nd district to join their UJBP party. (AGM)