Lanao Del Norte

MNLF, MILF list 6 Lanao del Norte hotspots, seek consolidation of polling places

Froilan Gallardo
MNLF, MILF list 6 Lanao del Norte hotspots, seek consolidation of polling places

OVERVIEW. Moro National Liberation Front leader Adrian Dowa gives an overview of the political situation in Lanao del Norte during a consultation meeting in Cagayan de Oro on Thursday, February 17. (Froilan Gallardo/Rappler)

Froilan Gallardo/Rappler

The Philippines' two major Muslim movements offer to deploy their members to help ensure peaceful elections in these areas

CAGAYAN DE ORO CITY, Philippines – The Philippines’ two former rebel movements, the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), on Thursday, February 17, proposed the consolidation of “high-risk” voting areas in six towns in Lanao del Norte during the election period.

A joint report made by the MNLF and MILF identified the towns of Nunungan, Munai, Pantar, Tagoloan, Matungao, and Magsaysay in Lanao del Norte where election violence could likely erupt.

The MNLF-MILF report was presented during a two-day risk assessment meeting organized by the interfaith and non-governmental organization Pakigdait Incorporated in Cagayan de Oro.

Aside from asking the Commission on Elections (Comelec) to consolidate the polling centers of the six towns, the MNLF and MILF also offered to deploy their members to help ensure the conduct of peaceful and orderly elections there.

OVERVIEW. Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) leader Adrian Dowa gives an overview of the political situation in Lanao del Norte during a consultation meeting in Cagayan de Oro on Thursday, February 17. (Froilan Gallardo/Rappler)

Hanif Salindawan, a representative of the MILF’s 102nd Base Command, said they foresee in these areas massive vote-buying, the deployment of flying voters and partisan armed groups, the presence of biased election officials and teachers who would serve in the polling places, and the occurrence of existing rido (clan feuds). These would likely lead to election violence, he added.

Salindawan said communist New People’s Army rebels could also take advantage of the situation, especially in Tagoloan, near the boundaries of Lanao del Sur and Cagayan de Oro City. The Lanao del Norte town is different from the municipality of the same name in Misamis Oriental province.

“These are our findings based on the history of these towns during election day,” Salindawan said.

Musa Sanguila, a representative of Pakigdait, said partisan groups in these areas have a history of vote-buying, with bribes ranging from P300 to as much as P3,000 per voter, a tempting amount for impoverished families with incomes of not more than P11,000 a month in 2019.

He said the groups which participated in the two-day meeting in Cagayan de Oro are determined to ensure peaceful and orderly elections.

“These are the same old problems every election, but what is significant here is that the fighters of the two groups (MNLF and MILF) have come together to help,” Sanguila said.

Colonel Isaias Bacurnay Jr., Lanao del Norte police director, said the joint MILF and MNLF report “differed slightly” from the assessment made by the police.

He said the Philippine National Police only identified the Lanao del Norte towns of Salvador and Munai as “areas of concern.” The municipality of Salvador is not on the MNLF-MILF list.

“We based our assessment on the history of violence of these towns every election, but these findings by the MILF and MNLF are new developments that should be carefully looked into,” Bacurnay said. – Rappler.com

Froilan Gallardo is a Mindanao-based journalist and an awardee of the Aries Rufo Journalism Fellowship