Muslim self-rule backed in Philippines’ troubled south

The vote results mean rebel group Moro Islamic Liberation Front will start laying down its weapons and assuming political power. (AFP pic)

MANILA: Voters have decisively approved a new Muslim-led region in the Philippines’ south, which is hoped will bring a measure of peace after decades of fighting killed thousands and mired the area in poverty.

The results, announced Friday, will begin the process of the Catholic-majority nation’s largest rebel group, the Moro Islamic Liberation Front, laying down its weapons and assuming political power.

About 150,000 people were killed in the rebellion that began in 1970s and aimed to push the government to grant independence to a Muslim minority concentrated on the island of Mindanao.

“We are very happy about the overwhelming support of the people,” MILF leader Murad Ebrahim told AFP.

“It was a landslide. There’s been nothing like this.”

Voters, who were expected to back the so-called Bangsamoro region, delivered a convincing result of about 1.7 million in favour and some 254,600 against, according to official results from the Philippines elections commission.