Muslim rebels who previously fought for secession from the Philippines have been cleared to help run a new self-governing region in the southern Philippines, Murad Ebrahim, chairman of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front, said Wednesday.
Murad said Abdullah Macapaar, alias Commander Bravo, would also be appointed as one of 80 members of the Bangsamoro Transition Authority.
Murad will be joined by fellow MILF central committee members and front commanders, whose eligibility earlier came under scrutiny because of criminal cases that might still be pending.
But he told ANC’s Early Edition beamed nationwide: “It is all cleared.”
Murad was expected to take the role of chief minister of the three-year transition government of the new Bangsamoro autonomous region.
Macapaar led deadly attacks in Lanao del Norte and North Cotabato in 2008 after the MILF and the government failed to sign a peace deal.
The Memorandum of Agreement on Ancestral Domain, under then President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, raised fears that it would lead to the creation of a sub-state for Muslims in Mindanao.
Murad said Macapaar, leader of the MILF’s 102nd Base Command, “will be appointed,” noting that the National Bureau of Investigation had cleared him of any pending cases.
Macapaar is expected to initially serve as a member of parliament.
Depending on the capability and qualifications, members would be tapped for ministerial positions, Murad said.
The MILF is awaiting the amnesty proclamation of President Rodrigo Duterte within the year to facilitate the transition of combatants to civilian life under the “normalization phase” of the peace process.
Members of the BTA were supposed to take their oath in Malacañang on Wednesday but the ceremony was reset to Feb. 22, said Murad.
He added 41 of them were nominated by the MILF while the rest were handpicked by the government.
The transition body is expected to take over governance of the old Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao the following week.
Murad acknowledged the pressure of governing a region long hobbled by poverty and violence.
“We are in another level of struggle that is to transform from the revolutionary organization to governance,” he said, recalling that some MILF leaders had gone to Malaysia and Turkey for some training.
According to Murad, the BTA would still be using the old P32-billion budget for ARMM to deliver on the promise of improved education, social services, and infrastructure this year.
Congress allocated an additional P30 billion for the new government’s operations, but Murad said the much bigger “block grant” would have to wait until next year.
The new region also stands to receive P50 billion in “special development fund” after 2019 to help rebuild areas devastated over years of armed conflict.