MILF won’t allow Cotabato City to be excluded from BARMM

Published August 18, 2018, 4:40 PM

by Francine Ciasico

By Ali Macabalang

COTABATO CITY – The Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) “will not allow” this city to be out of coverage of the proposed Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM), according to MILF First Vice Chair Ghazli Jaafar.

Bangsamoro Transition Commission Chairman Ghazali Jaafar (CBCP/ MANILA BULLETIN)
Bangsamoro Transition Commission Chairman Ghazali Jaafar (CBCP/ MANILA BULLETIN)

“Cotabato City is very important to us, being the seat of Bangsamoro leadership dating back from the reign against foreign colonizers by the legendary Sultan Kudarat. We will not allow (her) exclusion from the (proposed) region,” Jaafar told The Manila Bulletin in an interview Friday.

Jaafar pointed out that Cotabato City was also the bedrock of the Maguindanao revolutionary core group led by the late Ustaz Hashim Salamat under the then undivided Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF), which was formed in 1969 with Nur Misuari as founding chair, following the Jabidah Massacre in Corregidor of Moro youths a year earlier.

Salamat had been the MNLF vice chairman for internal affairs until an outbreak of policy differences with Misuari that prompted him, alongside 57 Maguindanaon MNLF officers to organize in 1977 a breakaway group called “The New Leadership.” The group was formally named Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) in 1984, local historians said.

Jaafar, one of Salamat’s 57 core comrades, said it was in Cotabato City – his birthplace – where they initiated and nurtured the early days of their group’s rebel movement.

Cotabato City served as the seat of the Central Mindanao Autonomous Region, one of two geopolitical subdivisions established by the Marcos government in 1977 purportedly in compliance with its peace accord with the MNLF inked in Tripoli, Libya in 1976. Zamboanga City hosted the Western Mindanao Autonomous Region. Both regions covered 10 regions and the cities therein, after three other provinces voted against in a plebiscite.

The two autonomous regions have since evolved into a single geopolitical subdivision called Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) under different Chief Executives starting from Corazon Aquino until incumbent President Rodrigo Duterte.

In different plebiscites held for the creation of ARMM in 1990 and its expansion in 2001, Cotabato City consistently voted against inclusion in the autonomous region. Christian officials and voters, comprising then a dominant force in the city, were reportedly indifferent to the term “Muslim Mindanao.” But Congress has designated Cotabato City as “temporary seat” of ARMM since 1990.

 
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