FOR PEACEFUL ELECTIONS. Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM) Chief Minister Ahod Ebrahim (right) speaks with Brig. Gen. Arthur Cabalona, BARMM police director (back at camera), following a regional peace and order council in Cotabato City on Thursday (March 10, 2022), as BARMM Interior Minister Naguib Sinarimbo (center) looks on. Ebrahim, concurrent head of the former rebel organization Moro Islamic Liberation Front, vowed to help ensure the peaceful and orderly May polls in the region. (Photo courtesy of Atty. Naguib Sinarimbo)

COTABATO CITY – Officials of the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM) and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) vowed Friday to help ensure a peaceful, clean, and orderly elections on May 9 this year.

“This year’s election is the first time that the MILF will officially participate in the electoral process as part of its transition from an armed revolutionary organization into a political party,” BARMM Chief Minister Ahod Ebrahim said in a statement.

“Let us make this election as the first where the will of the people will be truly expressed,” he added.

On Thursday, Ebrahim presided over a regional peace and order council meeting where he urged everyone to ensure that the first experience of the MILF in a democratic process "will be one where the valid will of the people will be expressed."

The "usual machinations of traditional politicians who subvert the popular will of the people through bribery and intimidation,” he said, should be prevented.

Ebrahim, who in the past repeatedly rejected calls for the MILF to join the political exercises and changed stance after a peace deal was reached with Manila, also expressed optimism the security sector in BARMM “will stay neutral and ensure a clean, honest, and peaceful elections that truly reflects the will of the people.”

Brig. Gen. Arthur Cabalona, the BARMM police director, assured Ebrahim that the Police Regional Office–BARMM will be "apolitical and neutral" to ensure a credible election in the region.

Ebrahim, also MILF chairman, said with the peace mechanism and the Bangsamoro Organic Law in place, the MILF has actively participated in the country’s democratic political exercises this year.

It has also formed its political arm, the United Bangsamoro Justice Party (UBJP), after ratifying the Bangsamoro Organic Law through a two-part plebiscite in January and February 2019 that led to the formation of the BARMM.

Areas of concern

Meanwhile, Cabalona reported that the PRO-BARMM has listed 102 areas of concern in this year’s national and local elections in BARMM.

Of this number, 99 are municipalities and the three others are the cities of Cotabato, Marawi, and Lamitan.

Cabalona told RPOC members that 18 zones in the region were classified as “areas of immediate concern” and labeled as “Red code” (critical areas); 34 others were listed under “Orange code” or areas where lawless groups like the Abu Sayyaf, Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters, Dawlah Islamiya, and private armed groups exist.

Fifty other areas in BARMM were tagged under “Yellow code” due to a history of election-related violence, the police official said.

PRO-BARMM said the number of election hot spots may decrease or increase depending on the situation on the ground the moment the campaign period for local aspirants begins on March 25. (PNA)