MILF derides alleged faction, tags instigators as ‘peace spoilers’

By Ali G. Macabalang

COTABATO CITY – The Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) has belittled an alleged “MILF-Salamat wing” formed purportedly by field members in Maguindanao, even as it deplored a political bloc for masterminding moves to grab leadership in the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM) governance.

MILF Chairman Ahod “Hadji Murad” Ebrahim, incumbent BARMM interim chief minister, issued on Sunday, July 24 a statement condemning in “strongest term the disinformation being circulated by misguided MILF members acting at the behest of some traditional politicians” wanting to take over the reign in the regional autonomous government.

The supposed faction is named after MILF founding Chairman Sheikh Salamat Hasim, a staunch advocate of Islamic governance. Hashim died of ailments in July 2003 in reclusion in Butig, Lanao del Sur. The MILF central committee subsequently chose Ebrahim as Hashim’s successor.

“The MILF central committee and all its committee and organs remain intact,” Ebrahim said, emphasizing the front’s faithful adherence to the “principle of shura or consultative and collective leadership.”

MILF field leader Abdulfatah Dilna, according to Ebrahim, circulated earlier a statement purporting the formation of the “MILF-Salamat wing” and his installation as faction leader.

But Ebrahim said Dilna’s statement was “nothing but an unabashed application letter” for appointment as member of the Bangsamoro Transition Authority (BTA), the 80-seat interim ruling body in BARMM.

Because of his dishonesty and defiance of the MILF’s collective decision-making process, the central committee has suspended Dilna, Ebrahim said. But hardcore comrades wanted Dilna expelled from the MILF.

Ebrahim also berated Dilna for directly applying before the Office of the President for appointment in the 80-member BTA. Dilna’s act contravened an existing protocol, which requires official MILF nomination of aspirants to 41 seats in the BTA reserved for the former revolutionary group, he said.

The MILF central committee was dismayed over Dilna and his followers for yielding to what it lamented as “sinister” plot by “traditional politicians” in Maguindanao to create dissension within the MILF, and topple the MILF’s transitional stewardship of the Bangsamoro autonomous government.

Ebrahim in his statement did not identify the “traditional politicians” backing Dilna. But top MILF and BARMM officials have pointed to former Sultan Kudarat Governor Suharto “Teng” Mangudadatu, husband of incumbent Maguindanao Governor Mariam Sangki-Mangudadatu, as the alleged leader of the political bloc.

An MILF insider posted in various social media channels a photo of Dilna posing with ex-Gov. Mangudadatu and four other personalities at the vicinity of the Batasan Pambansa on July 25 in time with the State of the Nation Address of President Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr.

According to a BARMM official, the group of ex-Gov. Mangudadatu had endorsed to President Marcos eight people for appointment to the BTA including Dilna and five followers as well as a purported representative from the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF).

The official named Mangudadatu’s eight nominees as Patah (Abdulfatah) Dilna, Akmad Mama, Mohamidin Matalam, Haron Tahir, Datu Tommy Pendatun, Norodin Kalimbol, Datu Amino Nando, and Hadji Paisal Pigkaulan.

Ex-Gov. Mangudadatu could not be reached for comment as of press time. In two video-recorded media interviews, however, he had announced his intention to seek appointment in the BTA and vie for the BARMM top post.

Under the 2014 Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro (CAB) between the MILF and the government, the former secessionist group is allowed to lead the transitional BARMM government, and is entitled to nominate 41 of the 80 members of the BTA to ensure simple majority in parliamentary decision-making. The 39 other members are to be selected by Malacañang from other sectors.

In his statement, Chief Minister Ebrahim tagged the instigators of the so-called “MILF-Salamat Wing” as “spoilers of peace.”

“These spoilers of peace deserve the strongest condemnation of our people. They should be exposed because, for so long a time, they have been the traitors to the legitimate cause of the Bangsamoro,” Ebrahim said,  

“Let this (statement) be a fair warning to peace spoilers. We know you, and our people know your hidden agenda,” he added.

Ebrahim also urged the government to “abide by the CAB and the BOL (Bangsamoro Organic Law known as R.A. 11054), and not allow the perennial spoilers of peace to once again destroy the bilateral gains of the peace process.”   

Meanwhile, incumbent BTA member Abdullah Hashim, son of the late MILF founder-chairman, has released written and video-recorded statements corroborating Ebrahim’s explanation.

Hashim said his father before his death advocated an Islam-based rule of succession in the MILF leadership, and acknowledged Ebrahim as potential successor.

Another statement written in the local vernacular and posted in social media by MILF members claimed that the late Hashim did not allow Dilna to be a full-fledged MILF field commander for lack of trust. It added that it was Ebrahim, upon his succession, who commissioned Dilna to a full-fledged position. (AGM)

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