By Ali G. Macabalang
COTABATO CITY – Bangsamoro Chief Minister Ahod Balawag Ebrahim has named a new labor minister again from the Moro National Liberation Front circle, sustaining the MNLF representation to autonomous governance.
Datu Muslimin Sema, former Cotabato City mayor and twice chosen as chieftain of a bigger MNLF faction, succeeds his nephew, Romeo Sema, who was named pioneer Ministry of Labor and Employment (MOLE) minister by the Chief Minister (CM) in 2019. The outgoing MOLE chief also belongs to the MNLF.
The appointment of Sema on March 8 reportedly drew praises from peace activists in the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM) and nearby communities.
CM Ebrahim, erstwhile known as Chairman Al-Haj Murad of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front’s central committee, “is true to his commitment (that the MILF stewardship of the BARMM governance) shall be inclusive among all quarters and sectors,” North Cotabato Vice Governor Emylou Taliño-Mendoza was quoted as saying in the published report.
Registered voters in North Cotabato, where both the MILF and the MNLF maintain state-recognized field camps, had opted for the inclusion of their 63 barangays in six towns in the BARMM territory in the January and February 2019 plebiscites held for the ratification of R.A. 11054 mandating the creation of the new autonomous region.
Organized journalists covering the BARMM government and peace-building activities have praised the designation of Sema as an “added stimulus” to popular clamors for unity among Moro revolutionary fronts involved in the decades-old Mindanao peace process.
The MNLF and the MILF have separate peace accords with the government. The MNLF peace deal redounded to the creation of the now defunct Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM), while the MILF’s accord gave birth to BARMM in replacement of the abolished region.
Sema reportedly told reports on Saturday that he accepted his appointment as MOLE minister, with the hope that his direct role in the BARMM bureaucracy could not only flesh out his MNLF faction’s expressed support to the MILF’s stewardship of the new autonomy but also serve as a “springboard” for meaningful unity in diversity.
“It’s another way forward – a big challenge,” Sema was quoted as saying, referring to his designation.
Both Minister Sema and CM Ebrahim belonged to the “Spartan 300,” the second batch of foreign trained fighters of the then undivided MNLF under founding Chairman Nur Misuari.
Sema’s predecessor-nephew, Romeo, incumbent MNLF vice chairman for political affairs, retains his Presidential appointment as member of the 80-seat Bangsamoro Transition Authority (BTA), BARMM’s interim ruling body.
The younger Sema is one of eight BTA appointed members in a Malacañang-sanctioned arrangement giving due credence to the MILF commitment for inclusivity in stewarding the new autonomy. (AGM)