By Ali G. Macabalang
SWEARING IN OF UBJP NEW MEMBERS: Mass oath-taking of all 11 mayors in Maguindanao’s first district as new members of the UBJP before party president and BARMM Chief Minister Ahod “Hadji Murad” Ebrahim and eventual executive meeting on May 8 at the MILF’s Camp Darapanan in Sultan Kudarat town. (Supplied Photos)
The Bangsamoro Justice Party (UBJP), an official political body of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), has gained stronger foothold in the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM) after all 11 towns mayors in Maguindanao’s first district joined the party as additional member- players lately.
The entry of the 11 incumbent mayors came so essential that no less than MILF Chairman and BARMM interim Chief Minister Ahod “Hadji Murad” Ebrahim warmly welcomed and administered their oath of allegiance in formal ceremony at Camp Darapanan in Simuay, Sultan Kudarat, Maguindanao on May 8, Saturday, party sources said.
Ebrahim, sitting as UBJP president, swore in Mayors Shameem Mastura of Sultan Kudarat, Marshal Sinsuat of Datu Blah Sinsuat, Abolais Manalao of Buldon, Ramil Dilangalen of Northern Kabuntalan, Ramon Piang of Upi, Salaban Diocolano of Mother Kabuntalan, Cahar Ibay of Parang, Cherry Sinsuat of Datu Odin Sinsuat, Abdulraof Tomawis of Barira, Mohammad “Kits” Guro of Matanog Mayor, and Abdulrauf Mastura of Sultan Mastura.
After the oath-taking rite, Ebrahim held an executive meeting with the 11 mayors accompanied by some vice mayors as well as Maguindanao Vice Giernor Lester Mastura and BARMM Parliament Member Tocao Mastura, a veteran politician who has ruled the then undivided Sultan Kudarat town for several years as mayor, party sources said.
The Chief Minister “congratulated the new members and urged them to play an important role in the push for moral governance in the region,” said Naguib Sinarimbo, incumbent BARMM minister for Interior and Local Government, who witnessed both the oath-taking rite and subsequent meeting.
Saturday’s event saw the third batch of incumbent elected officials to have joined the UBJP, according to Sinarimbo, who helped conceived the MILF political body in 2014 and helped work out its registration with the Commission on Elections months later.
“Last month, the entire elected provincial officials of Tawi-Tawi including the mayors of their municipalities and their Sanggunian members took their oath as members of the UBJP,” constituting the second batch of new party faces, Sinarimbo said.
He said the first batch, which involved six incumbent mayors in Basilan swearing-in as UBJP members, happened a few weeks before the Tawi-Tawi delegation’s entry.
Other party sources said the entry of all 11 mayors in the first district of Maguindanao was “pivotal” in the quest of the UBJP leadership to gain a formidable local political clout in the new autonomous region.
BARMM covers the provinces of Maguindanao, Lanao del Sur, Basilan, Sulu and Tawi-Tawi, the cities of Cotabato, Marawi and Lamitan as well as 63 villages in North Cotabato. It has total registered voters of 2,172,959 as of 2019 elections, according to Comelec data.
Maguindanao has the most number of registered voters in BARMM at 652,414, followed by Lanao del Sur (493,777), Sulu (376,235), Basilan (211,394) and Tawi-Tawi (210,419), a published Comelec data showed.
The first Congressional district of Maguindanao constitutes just 11 towns (whose incumbent mayors now form part of the UBJP) and Cotabato City. But it has bigger registered voters (359,299 including Cotabato City’s 131,133) than the second district. The second district, which covers 25 towns, has only 347,825 registered voters. (AGM)