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Supporters see candidacy of MNLF leaders as `pro-peace’

 • 00:06 AM Sun Apr 17, 2016
John Unson
Muslimin Sema, chairman of the largest of three factions in the Moro National Liberation Front, in a huddle with wife Rep. Bai Sandra Sema during a barangay sortie. (John Unson)

COTABATO CITY --- For most of supporters, the May 9 electoral exercise is the best avenue their two political principals” can explore to push their peace initiatives in Moro communities forward as rebel-turned peace activists.The duo, Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) leaders Solitario Ali and Muslimin Sema, who both fought for Moro cause for about three decades, are candidates for mayor of the cities of Marawi and Cotabato, respectively. We support the candidacy of Solitario because he wants to serve as Marawi City mayor in the context of being a peace advocate,” said Imam Ismael Asiddin, a Yakan by tribe, but now more of a Maranaw by assimilation owing to his having married Fatima Sariguidan, who hails from Lanao del Sur.Asiddin said while he is not directly involved in missionary works in Marawi City, he is aware that influential blocs of clerics, some of them graduates of the Al-Azzhar University in Cairo, Egypt and the World Islamic Call University in the Libyan capital Tripoli, are supporting Ali’s candidacy for mayor.Ali and Sema have a common denominator, that of having served as mayors of the cities of Marawi and Cotabato, whose highest elective positions they are again aspiring for in this election period.While still revolutionary leaders, Ali and Sema helped craft the September 2, 1996 peace agreement between the government and the MNLF.Ali has been invoking Islamic political principles in disseminating his concept of governance to voters in Marawi City, which has more than 90 barangays.Politics in Islam is premised on equality of all men, regardless of skin color, beliefs, and racial identities and is focused on charity works for all and propagation of unity among people with diverse religions and cultures.Ali is even doing now an Islamic educational campaign, called da’awah” in Arabic, for Marawi City voters to have a solid vote for candidates whom they know can foster fraternalism among them and address domestic security problems through religious approaches and diplomacy.Sema said their 1996 peace agreement with the national government is partly focused on the assimilation of former rebels into the political mainstream to sustain the dividends of the now 20-year truce, brokered by the influential Organization of Islamic Conference (OIC). If we get elected, we can make good use of the local government units we are to manage as vehicles for peace and sustainable development in Moro and Christian communities under our respective jurisdictions,” Sema said.Supporters of Ali said he had, in fact, used his influence, both as a former revolutionary leader and as a scion of a big Maranaw clan, to reconcile feuding families, some locked in decades-old vendetta conflicts, while he was mayor of Marawi City from 2001 to 2007. Understandably it is the former revolutionaries who would always find peaceful solutions to conflicts because they have experienced the pains of conflicts,” said a career service official in the Department of Education in Marawi City, who asked not to be identified to avoid being charged with electioneering.The school official said he is certain Ali and Sema’s election to office will create the impression that the Mindanao peace process, which aims to involve Moro leaders in governance, is gaining headway, particularly in the context of involving former rebels in governance.Sema said only by diplomacy and traditional approaches can security problems in Moro communities be resolved. And we, as leaders who had seen the ugly images of conflict, would always exhaust all peaceful means of addressing security problems in our respective turfs,” Sema said.A Visayan public school teacher said she is convinced the number of Ali and Sema’s supporters would increase by many folds in the coming days owing to their pro-peace” images. Their candidacy is so `pro-peace’ if I am to describe it aptly,” said the teacher, who is married to an ethnic Maguindanaon employee of an agency under the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao.

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