KABACAN, North Cotabato, January 19, 2019 – Town mayors here have expressed their support for the ratification of the Bangsamoro Organic Law (BOL).

At least 67 villages in seven towns in this province will vote in the plebiscite for inclusion in the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM) on February 6.

During a campaign rally here, Rogelio Taliño, town mayor of Carmen and president of the Mayor’s League of North Cotabato, said they support the inclusion of their villages in the new BARMM.

“Expect that not only the Muslims will say Yes to the BOL but as well as the Christian and Indigenous People residents in the province,” he said.

Seven villages in the town of Carmen, namely, Manarapan, Nasapian, Kibayao, Ktulaan, Langogan, Pebpoloan, and Tupig, were either unidentified in the law or were petitioned to join the BARMM.

“The logic here is very simple. The upcoming plebiscite is like having a relative who decided to get married and live outside the ancestral house. Then why would the other relatives not allow it?” he explained.

“That’s why in Carmen, we support the ratification of the BOL and the inclusion of the villages in the BARMM,” he said, generating applause from the crowd of 150,000.

Herlo Guzman, the town mayor of Kabacan, said they have been waiting for the law for a long time.

“This is our opportunity for us to achieve genuine peace,” he said, vowing to actively campaign for the inclusion of Kabacan’s seven villages in the future BARMM.

Sumulong Sultan, the town mayor of Pikit, said it is time for the Bangsamoro people to achieve their clamor for the right to self-determination.

“Being a Bangsamoro, that’s our aspiration,” he said.

From the original 11 villages in Pikit, another 12 villages have petitioned for their political units to join the BARMM.

Ebrahim Murad Al Haj, the chairman of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), expressed his gratitude to President Rodrigo Roa Duterte, who went to Cotabato City on Friday to make a final pitch for the BOL.

“If not because of him (President Duterte), there will be no BOL. We have been working to have this law, but it was only under his administration that finally we are on this stage already,” he said.

Murad said North Cotabato province is home to a diverse population.

“Our identity as a people is Bangsamoro. And it is not limited to the Muslims only,” he said.

Nancy Catamco, representative of the second district of North Cotabato said the BOL recognizes the aspirations of the indigenous people, too.

“We have been fighting for our rights in Mindanao. That’s why we, the IP, join you in praying that this law will be ratified,” she said.

Murad said the MILF is entering another phase of the peace implementation, which is the normalization process.

“What we are after here is a peaceful Mindanao,” he said, a place where arms are irrelevant.

“That’s why we agreed to decommission our forces,” Murad said.

The chief of the MILF Implementing Panel, Mohagher Iqbal, told the crowd that there are two meanings of voting Yes for the BOL.

“The Yes vote means we will have peace because there will be no more legitimate issue against the government,” he said.

“The Yes vote means we will have genuine autonomy. The MILF will be decommissioned. That’s our payment,” he said.

“Firearms will be put to beyond use. Private armies will be disbanded. Our fighters will be transformed and will live peaceful and productive lives,” he added.

Muslimin Sema, the former chair of the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF), said the BOL “is not just an ordinary law.”

“This is a law for unity, harmony, and healing the wounds brought about by armed conflict. This law will give us a brighter future. It guarantees development for all,” he said.

“This law was written by the blood not only of the Bangsamoro people, it includes the non-Moro people, Indigenous People and Christians,” Sema said.

Presidential Peace Adviser Carlito Galvez Jr., said the BOL is a landmark measure “because it embodies the hopes and dreams of the Moro people.”

“It is a law that seeks to give back to the people what they rightfully deserve and address historical injustices committed against them. This was a recognition made by President Rodrigo Duterte himself,” he said.

Galvez, who has been doing the rounds in the areas covered by the upcoming plebiscite, said he is overwhelmed by the support of the residents.

“We must bear in mind that the BOL is anchored primarily on the principles of inclusiveness and convergence,” he said.

“This is a law that was crafted not only for the Moro people but for all the residents of the proposed region. One can benefit from the law regardless of tribe, religion, or personal beliefs,” Galvez said.

As former military man, Galvez said the BOL “will ensure that those who use armed violence will become irrelevant because the law will provide people with greater incentive to choose the path of peace and development.”###