By Ali Macabalang
COTABATO CITY – Interim Chief Minister (ICM) Ahod Ebrahim, more known as Al-Haj Murad, is considering running for election in the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM) in the synchronized 2023 local, regional, and national polls to “preserve” the gains and unity in the fledgling region.
Ebrahim’s lieutenants and close associates in the BARMM interim cabinet said they held serious talks to convince Murad to reconsider his decision not to seek an elective post in the autonomous region and remain as chair of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) central committee to serve as “advisory guide” over the new governance.
Since his designation as ICM by President Duterte in February this year, Ebrahim and his trusted peers avoided talking about politics, especially the 2023 elections ostensibly to focus on the transitional stage and operations of the autonomous government.
But some local traditional politicians had reportedly formed alliances in the May 2019 elections to put up strong bets for the 80 parliamentary seats in BARMM where the position of regular chief minister would be decided upon.
The “political realignments” were noted in the BARMM’s component areas, foremost of which had surfaced in the “vote rich” Maguindanao, sources in the interim regional cabinet.
Maguindanao has some 700,000 voters, almost one third of the BARMM’s 1.6 million voting population. Next is Lanao del Sur (including Marawi City), which has over 500,000 electors. The combined voters in other component areas like Basilan (including Lamitan City), Sulu and Tawi-Tawi, and Cotabato City as well as 63 barangays in North Cotabato are lesser compared to the total electorates in Maguindanao and Lanao del Sur.
Regional cabinet “insiders” said the new “political alliance” in Maguindanao is reportedly led by a former aspirant for regional governor in the defunct Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM), and has embarked on mustering allies in Lanao del Sur as well as in the three island provinces.
They consider the unfolding political maneuvers as an affront to ICM Ebrahim’s thrust in building a “united” regime to flesh out President Duterte’s commitment to make BARMM a tool to “correct historical injustices” in the Bangsamoro.
When pressed to comment about the issue, BARMM spokesman and concurrent Mister of Local Government Naguib Sinarimbo has confirmed the conduct of “persuasive meetings” for ICM Ebrahim to consider seeking election in 2023 “for the sake of unity and upholding initial gains” of the fledgling autonomy.
“So far, we believe we have convinced the chief minister,” Sinarimbo told The Manila Bulletin.
Minister Sinarimbo, a lawyer, is a key official in the United Bangsamoro Justice Party (UBJP), which the Commission on Elections had registered in 2014 as MILF’s official political party.
In an interview in 2014, Murad said the UBJP would field candidates for local and regional positions, but categorically stated that he would not be among the candidates.
“I would want to remain as chair of the MILF as an overseeing entity in the Bangsamoro governance,” he said.