Isko Moreno

Isko Moreno starts Mindanao sorties with top BARMM, MILF party leaders behind him

Rommel Rebollido
Isko Moreno starts Mindanao sorties with top BARMM, MILF party leaders behind him

WITH A BANG. Manila Mayor Isko Moreno steps up his campaign to win votes in Mindanao with a rally in Maguindanao.

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BARMM Chief Minister Murad Ebrahim, ministers, and the MILF's party leaders join the Manila mayor in a rally attended by thousands in Buluan, Maguindanao

GENERAL SANTOS CITY, Philippines – At the start of Manila Mayor Isko Moreno’s campaign tour in Mindanao on Sunday, February 20, Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM) Chief Minister Ahod “Murad” Ebrahim spoke via Zoom while his top ministers and political party’s leaders joined the rally in a show of support for the presidential candidate.

The first of Moreno’s Mindanao sorties kicked off with a bang in the BARMM province of Maguindanao where Moreno addressed a crowd of thousands during the rally organized by the group of Maguindanao 2nd District Representative Esmael Mangudadatu, now a candidate for his old gubernatorial post.

The gathering in the town of Buluan was supposed to be for the mass oath-taking of members of the United Bangsamoro Justice Party (UBJP) – the political party of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) – from the towns of Pandag, Mangudadatu, SK Pendatun, Paglas, and Paglat. Instead, it became Moreno’s launching pad for a series of planned campaign gatherings in Mindanao.

Aksyon Demokratiko senatorial candidate Samira Gutoc confirmed to Rappler that the UBJP has thrown its support behind Moreno’s presidential bid.

The Manila mayor met with the BARMM chief minister in Cotabato City before he proceeded to the mass oath-taking cum campaign rally.

Moreno was joined by ranking Bangsamoro region officials led by BARMM Executive Secretary Abdulraof Macacua, Education Minister Mohagher Iqbal, and Interior Minister Naguib Sinarimbo, among others.

Sinarimbo is the secretary-general of the Murad-led party while Iqbal is one of the most prominent MILF figures – he used to head the Front’s information committee and played a vital role in the negotiations between the then-rebel group and the government that resulted in a political settlement.

The UBJP is the dominant political group in the autonomous region’s parliament.

Moreno spoke before a cheering crowd of thousands in Buluan town where he took swipes at the groups of his rivals, ex-senator Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr. and Vice President Leni Robredo.

Not once did he mention his rivals’ or their group’s names, but he referred to them as “red” and “pink-yellow,” colors associated with Marcos’ and Robredo’s groups.

The “reds” received much of the beating during the Moreno rally because of the atrocities committed against Muslims in Mindanao in the ’70s and ‘80s when the Marcoses were in power.

“Huwag kayong lilimot kung sino ang kumitil sa buhay ng lahi ninyo (Never forget what was done to Muslims in Mindanao),” said Moreno, and then cited the years 1974 and 1981. 

Moreno, known for punctuating his speeches with street lingo, told the crowd at the predominantly Muslim town of Buluan to be cautious about choosing whom to vote.

He asked the crowd to “gamble” on him, saying that voters already gave the “reds” and the “yellows” 39 years.

Moreno promised to fully implement provisions in the peace agreement between the MILF and the government. – with a report from Herbie Gomez/Rappler.com

Rommel Rebollido is a Mindanao-based journalist and an awardee of the Aries Rufo Journalism Fellowship