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MILF's bid for BTA extension not for power but to ensure success of peace deal – Murad

Bangsamoro Interim Chief Minister Ahod "Al Haj Murad" Ebrahim made an impassioned push for a 3-year extension of the Bangsamoro Transition Authority (BTA), saying it is primarily to ensure peace in Mindanao, and not a bid to stay in power.

"For us, it's not the power in the governance but it is the success of the implementation of the process of the peace agreement because it is the fruit of two decades of struggle," he said on Friday, January 22, during a virtual press conference.

"I myself, I started by joining the struggle when I was 19 years old. Now I am 71 years old so I have spent almost my whole life in the struggle," he continued.

The day before, the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao celebrated its second founding anniversary. (READ: On 2nd year, Bangsamoro gov't struggles to deliver gov't 'felt' by people)

The BTA, led by the Chief Minister's organization, the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), has a good chance of succeeding in bringing development and peace to the conflict-racked region, said Murad.

"Now is the time that it will succeed. We are asking everyone to give this a chance to succeed because it is not only for our good but the good of the Bangsamoro people and the entire Philippine people," he said.

Failure could lead to more violence

Asked if MILF members, especially those with arms, will again resort to violence should Congress fail to grant a 3-year extension, Murad said he could not speculate on this but that there are surely "small groups" who could use the failure of a 3-year-old BTA to foment conflict.

"We can't say now if they will go back to war but we know there are still groups that are just waiting for failure because they will exploit on that," said Murad.

He said he was not "scaring" anyone but that the "reality" is that success in the transition process is necessary to prevent violent groups from gaining traction and followers.

Duterte fully supports Murad-led BTA

Murad also said that President Rodrigo Duterte expressed "full satisfaction" in the transition process and committed to support the BTA in whatever way is necessary for their success.

They had met in Malacañang on Thursday to discuss the status of the transition.

"He clearly pronounced that he is very thankful and he assured the support of his administration to the transition authority in order to accomplish its tasks," said the Chief Minister.

Malacañang has long said it backs the BTA's call for an extension, putting pressure on lawmakers to pass the needed amendment to the Bangsamoro Organic Law.

Five bills to this end have been filed in the 18th Congress. – Rappler.com

Pia Ranada

Pia Ranada covers the Office of the President and Bangsamoro regional issues for Rappler. While helping out with desk duties, she also watches the environment sector and the local government of Quezon City. For tips or story suggestions, you can reach her at pia.ranada@rappler.com.

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