MILF taps renegade commander to join new Bangsamoro government

Christian V. Esguerra, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Feb 07 2019 04:28 PM

MANILA — A renegade commander who once led bloody attacks following an unsuccessful attempt at self-rule in the southern Philippines is now being considered to help govern the country’s new autonomous region for its Muslim minority.

Abdullah Macapaar, also known as Commander Bravo, was among 41 individuals the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) nominated to the interim government for the Bangsamoro, said Ghazali Jaafar, the group’s vice chairman.

Macapaar will represent Lanao del Norte to the 80-member parliament, which will also include the 25 elected members of the present Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) until June this year.

“We’re giving him a chance to prove to the people that he is not that harsh, that he is not uncontrollable,” Jaafar told ABS-CBN News.

“As a matter of fact, he follows orders from the leadership of the MILF.”

Macaapar was one of two rogue MILF commanders who raided communites in North Cotabato and Lanao del Norte in 2008 after the Supreme Court halted the signing of an agreement, which many feared would give rise to a Mindanao sub-state.

With the MILF getting another crack at a stronger autonomy law this year, Macapaar campaigned hard for support from the 6 predominantly Muslim towns in Lanao del Norte, where he wields strong influence.

Residents of these towns participated in Wednesday’s plebiscite, which will determine if they would be included in the new Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM).

A total of 67 villages in North Cotabato also participated in the plebiscite for possible inclusion.

BRIGHT IDEAS

The Bangsamoro Transition Authority (BTA), which will govern the BARRM until 2022, will be formed soon after the plebiscite results are known.

Jaafar, who is included in the list of nominees, said BTA members were expected to take their oath by the middle of the month.

Macaapar was among at least 5 front commanders nominated by the MILF.

“When he becomes a member of parliament, he can contribute his bright ideas,” Jaafar said.

“Since nasa parliament siya, kailangan sundin niya 'yung policy ng parliament. Hindi siya pwedeng hindi susunod.”

(Since he is in parliament, he has to follow the policy of parliament. He cannot disobey.)

AMNESTY

The government will now have to determine how to appoint MILF combatants with pending criminal cases, a “legal impediment” cited by lawyer Benedicto Bacani, executive director of the Cotabato City-based Institute for Autonomy and Governance.

Mohagher Iqbal, head of the MILF’s implementing panel, earlier floated the possibility of “provisional appointments” until such combatants are granted amnesty.

But Bacani said “there’s no such thing as provisional appointment in the rules at the moment.”

“I suppose that’s one way of mainstreaming them (but) personally I would go for the decommissioning and normalization as a way of mainstreaming combatants,” he said.

Jaafar said the MILF’s list of nominees included at least 18 central committee members led by chairman Murad Ebrahim.