BARMM

MILF-Salamat wing calls for BARMM audit, lifestyle checks on region’s officials

Rommel Rebollido
MILF-Salamat wing calls for BARMM audit, lifestyle checks on region’s officials

BARMM interim Chief Minister Ahod 'Al Haj Murad' Ebrahim.

Rappler

Former MILF spokesman Eid Kabalu says there is growing dissatisfaction with the leadership of BARMM interim Chief Minister Ahod Balawag 'Al Haj Murad' Ebrahim and his group

GENERAL SANTOS CITY, Philippines – The Moro Islamic Liberation Front-Salamat wing on Thursday, August 11, called for a full accounting and audit of the billions of pesos the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM) received from the national government since 2019. It also called for lifestyle checks on the special region’s officials.

In a statement, MILF-Salamat wing chairman Abdulfatah Delna said the BARMM has been receiving block grants and special development funds averaging between P70 billion and P75 billion annually since its creation that need to be fully accounted for by the regional government “to the last centavo.”

The statement was released a day before BARMM interim Chief Minister Ahod Balawag “Al Haj Murad” Ebrahim and other regional officials took their oath in Malacanang on Friday, August 12.

Part of the group’s statement read, “[The] BARMM government must publish the whereabouts of public funds it managed from its inception in March 2019 up to June 30, 2022, in accordance with the law.”

Former MILF spokesperson and now MILF-Salamat wing political affairs chief Eid Kabalu told Rappler in an exclusive interview hours before the oath-taking on Friday that there was growing dissatisfaction in the region with the leadership of Ebrahim and his group, and there have been questions about how the regional government spent the funds that it received.

“People are asking about where the money went,” Kabalu said.

He called for lifestyle checks on the current BARMM officials, and for them to submit to official inquiries about their finances.

MILF-Salamat wing calls for BARMM audit, lifestyle checks on region’s officials

Kabalu said the MILF-Salamat wing enjoys the support of at least 10,000 people in the BARMM, including MILF members and supporters who wanted those from their ranks to occupy seats in the interim Bangsamoro Transition Authority (BTA) which runs the BARMM affairs.

The MILF-Salamat wing said the “mainstream MILF” did not want to “share the fruit of the struggle to its comrades and much more the Bangsamoro people.”

The BTA’s supposedly three-year term was extended by the previous administration to 2025, but the MILF-Salamat wing had argued that the extension did not apply to the terms of office of Ebrahim and other BTA members, an assertion that has become water under the bridge after Friday’s oath-taking.

Interim Chief Minister Ebrahim, who is also chairman of the MILF, has criticized Delna and Kabalu’s group, calling it a misguided group that was out to sow division in the MILF.

Ebrahim also said the MILF-Salamat wing was a creation of traditional politicians and wayward MILF members who were interested in a BARMM power grab. 

“That cannot happen because we are in a transition, and the law states that the MILF must take the lead,” Ebrahim said.

But Delna’s group said the transitory provision that Ebrahim has been invoking was the reason why the “mainstream MILF” dropped many members of MILF from its roster.

“We are MILF and we are the Salamat wing in respect to the governance in the BARMM… Our loyalty is to the Bangsamoro,” read part of the statement released by Delna’s group.

Kabalu said Delna alone served as one of the closest BIAF commanders of the late MILF founding chairman Salamat Hashim. He said Delna was also in-charge of Salamat’s security. 

He said it was Ebrahim’s group that deviated from the ideals espoused by Salamat.

Delna’s group also called the work of the MILF central committee a “hoax,” and alleged that some of them were “pseudo revolutionaries.”

The group said its enemy was “corruption, manipulation, and nepotism” even as it expressed disappointment that many of those appointed to seats in the BARMM were not considered organic members of the MILF.

It said BARMM needs to be managed by competent and honest people with delicadeza (sense of propriety).

The outcome of the May elections in the BARMM showed that the region’s interim leaders have already lost a foothold in the region, Delna’s group said.

Kabalu said the majority of the candidates that were endorsed by Ebrahim and the MILF’s United Bangsamoro Justice Party (UBJP) lost, including then-vice president and presidential candidate Leni Robredo.

“Most of their local candidates lost, too. That’s an indication of the level of their credibility in the BARMM,” he said.

Delna said Ebrahim’s group first supported the presidential bid of then-Manila mayor Isko Moreno, then shifted to Robredo at the eleventh hour. He said the election outcome showed that the “majority of the Bangsamoro people do not anymore listen to the MILF leadership.”

Worse, according to Delna, BARMM’s leaders threatened MILF members who supported other candidates with expulsion.

Kabalu said the MILF-Salamat wing supported President Ferdinand Marcos Jr.’s successful campaign and other candidates who Ebrahim’s group disliked, and for that, they were dropped from the MILF roster.

For his part, Ebrahim said the May 9 elections were part of a democratic process “which should not be made an obstacle in pursuing the peace process.”

Ebrahim said the MILF central committee threw its support behind candidates who it thought had a clear plan and intention to implement the peace agreement and pursue the peace process in the Bangsamoro region.

“Isko Moreno came to BARMM and then Leni Robredo. It was Robredo who presented a clear plan on how to pursue the peace process,” he said.

Ebrahim said Marcos was invited to present his platform, but opted not to meet with them. 

“Had he come, the MILF would have endorsed him also,” Ebrahim said. – Rappler.com

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