MILF party endorses Robredo’s bid on her 57th birthday

By Ali G. Macabalang

COTABATO CITY – Vice President and presidential candidate Leni Robredo received a delightful birthday gift today, April 23 in the form of an official endorsement by the United Bangsamoro Justice Party (UBJP), the political party of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) and ruling officials of the Bangsamoro autonomous governance.

The lone female presidential aspirant flew all the way from Manila to the MILF’s headquarters at Camp Darapanan in Sultan Kudarat, Maguindanao to personally receive the coveted endorsement as she turned 57 in the final two-week run-up to the May 9 national and local elections.

Set to fly back on the same day for her grand rally in Pasay City, Robredo also got the endorsement of the UBJP full provincial slate in Maguindanao led by 2nd District Rep. Esmael “Toto” Mangudadatu.

Above is an online-generated photo showing the hand raising for Vice President Leni Robredo by UBJP chairman, MILF chieftain and BARMM Chief Minister Ahod “Hadji Murad” Ebrahim alongside Maguindanao gubernatorial bet Rep. Esmael “Toto” Mangudadatu and vice gubernatorial contender former Rep. Sandra Sema at Camp Darapanan in Sultan Kudarat, Maguindanao on April 23.

Robredo’s hands were jointly raised by MILF chairman and Bangsamoro Interim Chief Minister Murad Ebrahim, who chairs the UJBP, and Rep. Mangudadatu alongside former Rep. Bai Sandra Sema, a vice gubernatorial candidate in Maguindanao.

In his speech, Ebrahim said Robredo and the UJBP are “overwhelmingly compatible” in values and principles concerning the Bangsamoro governance.

MILF Vice Chair cum and UBJP Vice President Mohagher Iqbal, in a preceding message, recalled that Robredo in her stint in Congress as Camarines Sur’s 3rd District congresswoman actively lobbied for the Bangsamoro bill.

After gaining the official backing of the UBJP party and the Bangsamoro officialdom as well as Rep. Mangudadatu with his provincial slate, Robredo is yet dealing a challenge with rival presidential bet Manila Mayor Isko Moreno.

Rep. Mangudadatu, a former three-term Maguindanao governor, had earlier endorsed Moreno’s candidacy, with his family managing the Manila Mayor’s sorties in southern Mindanao.

The lawmaker’s wife, beauty queen Sharifa Akeel is a gubernatorial candidate of the Aksyon Demokratiko, Moreno’s party, for Sultan Kudarat province.

Robredo met here with the UBJP and BARMM officials last March, after Moreno paid a courtesy call with the same leaders accompanied by the Mangudadatus last February.

The Bangsamoro regional officialdom’s “open door” stance for visit by national candidates has so far drawn positive response alone from Robredo and Moreno. Both presidential aspirants had assured support for the implementation of all legal mandates concerning the regional autonomous governance.

The UBJP and Bangsamoro government officials’ ultimate endorsement was not a surprise. Though pre-election surveys showed Robredo and Moreno lagging behind, the Bangsamoro leaders have indicated no preference for the front-runner, Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr.

Apart from morality issue, Bangamoro leaders would certainly not throw their support behind Marcos, whose family was blamed for the massacres, rapes and abuses against Moro people under the late dictator’s regime.

Last Wednesday, April 20, civil society groups led by the Mindanao People’s Caucus held a forum here, presenting to the media and the public survivors of the massacres in Malisbong, Palebang, Sultan Kudarat in 1974 and in Manili, Carmen, North Cotabato.  

The massacre survivors asked fellow voters, especially among the Bangsamoro community, to vote for presidential aspirants except Bongbong.

With Mangudadatu and the MILF now behind her, along with the machinery of her longtime ally and Basilan Rep. Mujiv Hataman, a former head of the defunct Autonomous region, Robredo has a bigger chance of repeating her victory in the same region over Marcos in the 2019 vice presidential race.

But the chance could be slim this time, as Marcos already got the backing of four of five provincial governors in the autonomous region: Abdusakur Tan of Sulu, Yshmael “Mang” Sali of Tawi-Tawi, Mariam Sangki-Mangudadatu of Maguindanao, and Mamintal “Bombit” Alonto Adiong Jr. of Lanao del Sur. 

The only BARMM governor to support Robredo for this election is Basilan Governor Hadjiman Hataman-Salliman, the elder brother of Mujiv.

Meanwhile, religious clerics were hopeful that incumbent elected Muslim leaders and their followers may eventually change heart on the day of election. (AGM)

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