Palace allows renegade commander to join new Bangsamoro gov't - MILF

Jamaine Punzalan, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Feb 20 2019 09:34 AM | Updated as of Feb 20 2019 10:51 AM

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MANILA - Malacañang has allowed a renegade commander who once led bloody attacks in Mindanao to help govern the new autonomous region for the Muslim minority there, the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) said Wednesday. 

Abdullah Macapaar, also known as Commander Bravo, was among 41 individuals the MILF nominated to the interim government for the Bangsamoro. 

"The 41 names are already appointed," said MILF Chairman Murad Ebrahim, who is expected to be the chief minister of the 80-member Bangsamoro Transition Authority (BTA). 

Macapaar was "included" in the approved list. He "has no pending case" in the National Bureau of Investigation and was cleared by the agency, Ebrahim told ANC. 

The MILF commander, he added, will "initially" serve as member of the Bangsamoro parliament. 

Macaapar was one of 2 rogue MILF commanders who raided communities 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.

He campaigned hard for support from the 6 predominantly Muslim towns in Lanao del Norte, where he wields strong influence. 

The Lanao municipalities of Baloi, Munai, Nunungan, Pantar, Tagoloan and Tangcal voted for the Bangsamoro Organic Law in a Feb. 6 plebiscite but the province prevented their inclusion in the new region. 

Thirty-nine of the 80 BTA will be named by the government.

MILF's nominees include 18 commanders, as well as members of the central committee, said Ebrahim. 

"They have passed the scrutiny. All of them have some pending cases, but this can be done under the normalization provision... Part of the normalization is the declaration of amnesty by the President," he said.

'NEW STRUGGLE' 

MILF has sent its members to study the parliamentary system of government in some countries where it is implemented like Malaysia and Turkey, said Ebrahim. 

"We are in another level of struggle, that is to transform from a revolutionary personality, revolutionary organization to governance," he said. 

"We recognize the challenges ahead, we know that i t would not be easy for us, owing that we have not been in government in the last decades. But then, we are ready to face the challenge," 

The new Bangsamoro government, he said, has to focus on promoting education and health services in the region racked by decades of armed struggle that claimed thousands of lives. 

Bangsamoro leaders are also talking with international donors who are "very interested" in helping rebuild Marawi City, which was seized for 5 months in 2017 by Islamic State-affiliated terrorists from the Maute family. 

LANAO TOWNS' INCLUSION

The BTA will also recommend an amendment to the Constitution to junk the "double majority" rule in which both the towns and their mother units or provinces should vote in favor of inclusion in the new autonomous region, Ebrahim said. 

In the meantime, the 6 Lanao Del Norte towns excluded from the Bangsamoro can file another petition for inclusion that would be subjected to a vote, he said. 

Authorities on Thursday will also meet in Manila to finalize the decommissioning of some 12,000 combatants and 1,000 firearms, said Ebrahim. 

With a report from Christian Esguerra, ABS-CBN News