NORTH COTABATO (February 5, 2019) – “Alam po ninyo na mahal namin kayo, at dahil mahal namin kayo, we will set you free.”

(You all know that we love you, and because we love you, we will set you free.)

This was North Cotabato Board Member Atty. Roland Jungco’s message during the Multistakeholder Forum on Bangsamoro Organic Law (BOL) held at Southern Christian College Gymnasium, Midsayap on February 2, 2019, only four days before the conduct of the second round of plebiscite for some areas in North Cotabato and Lanao del Norte come February 6, 2019.

The forum, which was attended by residents of barangays subject for inclusion in the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM), was conducted in order to inform stakeholders on the salient features of the BOL and the plebiscite process.

Also in attendance were representatives of the Local Government Unit (LGU), the academe, and various Civil Society Organizations (CSOs).

Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process (OPAPP) Undersecretary Nabil A. Tan, Chair of the GPH Peace Implementing Panel for the GPH-MILF Peace Accords, urged his fellow Mindanaoans to support the inclusion of the areas in the BARMM. “This is the President’s commitment to peace agreements in order to bring about peace and development,” he said.

Some members of the Bangsamoro Transition Commission (BTC) who crafted the BOL were also present, including Commissioner Atty. Omar Sema who presented the salient features of the BOL; Commissioner Romeo C. Saliga who presented the features on respecting and commitment to rights of the Indigenous Peoples; Commissioner Atty. Raissa Jajurie who presented the provisions on fiscal autonomy; and Marites Completaño representing Commissioner Susana Anayatin who presented the provisions on Christian/Settler Communities.

In his presentation on the mechanics and processes on the conduct of the upcoming plebiscite, Midsayap, North Cotabato Election Officer Reynaldo Tubelonia said a total of 67 barangays are subject for inclusion in North Cotabato: 13 barangays from Midsayap; 12 barangays from Pigcawayan; 4 barangays from Aleosan; 7 barangays from Carmen; 7 barangays from Kabakan; 1 barangay from Tulunan; and 23 barangays from Pikit.

Provincial Governor Emmylou “Lala” Taliño-Mendoza, for her part, urged the residents to base their decisions on what is the best for the next generations.

“Ang kabataan ang magtataguyod ng ating napag-umpisahan at sila rin ang lubos na makikinabang (The youth will build on what we have started and they are the ones who will greatly benefit from it),” she said.

The forum was also attended by Southern Christian College president Dr. Edwin T. Balaki, Board Member Mohamad Kelie Antao, Board Member Roselie Cabaya, and Board Member Atty. Roland Jungco.

Also present were representatives of the United Bangsamoro Justice Party, Christians for Peace Movement, Yaqeen Global for Peace, Unypad, Sangguniang Kabataan Federation, League of the Bangsamoro Organization, and Social Welfare Committee.

The plebiscite is scheduled on February 6, 2019 for Lanao del Norte and the municipalities in North Cotabato where a total of 67 barangays are proposed for inclusion to the BARMM.

Malacañang declared the day a special non-working day in these areas for the conduct of the plebiscite.