'Let's move forward': MILF official on Cotabato mayor's plan to contest BOL vote

ABS-CBN News

Posted at Jan 24 2019 04:45 PM

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MANILA - The head of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front is urging all parties to move forward after the plebiscite for the Bangsamoro Organic Law, but respects the plan of the Cotabato City Mayor to contest the result showing residents voting to join a new autonomous region.

The MILF, the largest Moro separatist group in the country, secured a "yes" vote from majority of the residents of Cotabato City, dubbed as the "crown jewel" of the new self-governing region.

But Mayor Cynthia Guiani-Sayadi, who campaigned against the city’s inclusion, said she will file a protest, citing "massive disenfranchisement" of voters because of violence and threats coming from MILF supporters. 

"I respect that. The city mayor can do that because that is her democratic right, but the people have already spoken and I think we should respect this," Mohagher Iqbal, Chairman of the MILF implementing panel said.

"It’s now time for everybody, the yes and the no votes, to converse together and to move forward as one body," he told ANC's Early Edition.

Iqbal said people went out to cast their ballots last Monday despite mounting "problems," and this was why the votes for the Bangsamoro law and the inclusion of Cotabato City prevailed.

The city, which twice resisted inclusion to the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao, "naturally and historically" should be part of the Bangsamoro region because it is part of the Moro struggle and narrative in the south, he said.

While the Bangsamoro Parliament will decide on its own where to place the seat of power of the new autonomous region, Iqbal believes Cotabato City would be the practical choice as it is currently the center of communication to the ARMM.

The national board of canvassers in Manila will verify the plebiscite results likely until Friday, Commission on Elections spokesperson James Jimenez earlier said. 

The Bangsamoro law is the product of a 2014 peace deal between the government and the MILF, which has sought self-governance for the Moro people since the 1970s.