The Bangsamoro autonomous region in southern Philippines has so far reported over 4,000 COVID-19 cases and 158 related deaths, according to its chief minister.

Al-Hajj Murad Ebrahim told parliament on Thursday that there are only 96 active cases in the region, which has a population of nearly five million, according to an official statement.

Ebrahim said his government has received around 18,000 doses of Oxford-AstraZeneca and Sinovac vaccines. Of the 3,732 eligible health care workers, he added, 2,559 or 69% have already received their first shot.

The predominantly Muslim region voted for greater autonomy in a 2019 referendum, ending decades of conflict and paving the way for a three-year transition toward elections.

On Feb. 26, 2019, Ebrahim, who is also the chairman of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front which led the armed struggle, took charge as the regional head till 2022.

Referring to the historic struggle of Moros, which resulted in the signing of an autonomy agreement with Manila, Ebrahim said: “The Bangsamoro struggle was never about getting lucrative positions in the government.”

“Modesty aside, we could have run for politics long before and probably won in many areas. We could have stayed comfortably within the confines of a public office during our younger years instead of spending days and nights in the jungle and in the battlefield for the struggle. But then again, this was never our intent. The struggle is and will always be for Allah and for the people,” he said.

Referring to the call for extension in the transition period until 2025, he said: “The call for extension of the transition period is a call for peace. It is for the continuation of our collective pursuit for a just and lasting peace in our homeland.”

– Day to commemorate Tausug’s resistance

Meanwhile, the Bangsamoro government has announced to observe March 6 as “Bud Dajo Day” every year.

“In honor of the Tausug’s resistance to United States’ colonization on March 6, 1906, a bill declaring said date as Bud Dajo Day has been filed in the parliament,” said the press release.

The bill was moved by Amilbahar S. Mawallil, a member of parliament.

“Around 800–1,000 Tausug villagers were massacred on the said date inside a 50-foot crater of Bud Dajo – a dormant volcano six to seven kilometers away from Jolo, Sulu,” he said. “The victims were a community of Tausugs who fled to the volcano in defiance of the United States’ occupation of Mindanao.”

“Despite being out-gunned and overpowered, the freedom-loving Tausugs chose to fight, and sacrifice their lives, rather than submit to American rule by paying taxes or surrendering their weapons,” Mawallil stated on the bill’s explanatory note.

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