Moro rebel group leader votes in historic Bangsamoro plebiscite

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, January 21) — The leader of the largest Muslim rebel group in the country cast his vote on Monday to create a new Muslim autonomous region in Mindanao.

Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) Chairman Al Hajj Murad Ebrahim cast his vote in favor of the Bangsamoro Organic Law (BOL) at the Simuay Junction Central Elementary School in Sultan Kudarat in Maguindanao.

The Bangsamoro plebiscite is a historic moment, but it bore more meaning to the Moro leader as it was his first time to place a vote.

"It's my first time to exercise my right to vote. It is now start of commencement of transition of revolutionary to governance," he said.

Murad said that once implemented, BOL's priority would be education and provision of health care, basic services, and infrastructure.

The Bangsamoro Organic Law is a product of years of peace negotiations between the government and the MILF. The creation of a new Muslim autonomous region is seen to bring a peaceful resolution to the long-drawn conflict in Mindanao, tracing its roots to disputes over land and religion.

Ebrahim is among the 2.8 million voters from the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM), Isabela City in Basilan, and Cotabato City expected to cast their Bangsamoro vote.

 

If the BOL is ratified, it will automatically include the entire ARMM —Sulu, Basilan except for Isabela City, Lanao del Sur, Maguindanao, and Tawi-Tawi. Cotabato City and Isabela City in Basilan will also vote if they want to be part of BARMM (Bangsamoro ARMM).

CNN Philippines correspondent Triciah Terada contributed to this report.