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Duterte’s cabinet makes final pitch for BOL

SHARIFF KABUNSUAN COMPLEX, COTABATO CITY (January 20, 2019) — The Duterte Administration’s top cabinet officials arrived here on Friday to join the President in urging Moro and non-Moro residents here to support the ratification of the Bangsamoro Organic Law (BOL).

Unleashing the region’s full potential

In his message of support, Interior Secretary Eduardo Año noted that Mindanao has long been considered a “Land of Promise” due to its huge economic potential and vast natural resources.

Año, however, lamented that the island-region’s volatile peace and order situation has “discredited this potential.”

According to the former AFP chief of staff, he has witnessed the “horrors of war” where “countless lives have been lost.”

“We are all losers [in war]. It always leaves behind scars,” he said.

Año said that once ratified, the BOL will strengthen local governance and usher in economic development into the region.

As the new Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM) government will be given greater fiscal autonomy and more financial resources, he expects the emergence of more dynamic and forward-looking leaders.

“Good governance will follow. We will see the rise of more leaders,” Año said, as he called on the people to participate in the plebiscite and encouraged them to vote “Yes.”

“Express your sentiments by casting your votes. Let us be advocates to make Mindanao a land of fulfilment,” he said.

Key to peace in Mindanao

For his part, Cabinet Secretary Karlo Nograles said members of the President’s cabinet are unanimous in their support for the BOL.

“We in the cabinet are one in saying Yes to BOL. We support the law because the President is supporting it,” Nograles said in Filipino, drawing applause from the thousands of delegates attending the Grand Peace Assembly.

The former legislator from Davao said he believes the landmark measure “will be key to peace not only in Mindanao but throughout the country.”

Nograles promised the Duterte Administration will work closely with the new Bangsamoro government in order to bring long-lasting peace, build infrastructure, create jobs, strengthen good governance and protect the environment.

“We will work with you [towards achieving] peace and development in Mindanao,” he said.

Better than the ARMM

Once ratified, the BOL will establish the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Mindanao (BARMM) which shall replace the current Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM).

The BARMM, which is envisioned to be a more powerful political entity, shall be initially headed by an 80-member Bangsamoro Transition Authority (BTA) whose members will be appointed by the President himself.

The BARMM government will have greater fiscal autonomy as it will have the power to create its own sources of revenue and collect taxes consistent with the provisions of the Organic Law.

Under the BOL, the central government shall allocate the regional government a Block Grant which is equivalent to 5 percent of the annual collections of the Bureau of Internal Revenue and Bureau of Customs.

The Block Grant is expected to create more economic opportunities for residents, encourage more local and foreign investors to come in and consequently, unleash the region’s full economic potential.

Moreover, the national government shall also provide the region a Special Development Fund (SDF) amounting to P50 billion or P5 billion per year for a period of 10 years.

The SDF will be primarily utilized for the rehabilitation, rebuilding and development of conflict-affected communities in the region.

For peace, unity and progress

At the same event, National Security Adviser Hermogenes Esperon, recalled the war he fought in Central Mindanao as a brigade commander in 2000.

Esperon said the armed conflict between the Philippine Government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), claimed hundreds of lives, drove thousands of residents to evacuation centers, and brought untold destruction to communities.

The turning point for him came when he visited one of the hardest-hit areas and brought with him chickens which he gave away to residents.

“We are able to achieve more if there is peace and unity,” Esperon said.

He stressed the BOL is a much-improved version because it “brings together” the MILF and Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF).

“Let us support the BOL for peace, unity and progress!” Esperon said.

Ready to govern

Meanwhile, Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana said he supports the BOL, first and foremost, because he is a Maguindanaoan.

Lorenzana said he had recently spoken to top MILF and MNLF leaders who told him their organizations are ready and now gearing up for the BOL’s implementation.

He said MILF Chairman Ebrahim Murad gave the assurance that the group’s leadership “will do it right,” referring to the law’s implementation.

On the other hand, Lorenzana said MNLF Chairman Yusoph Jikiri expressed confidence “the BOL will be good for the people.”

A golden opportunity 

In the meantime, Senator Juan Miguel Zubiri, who was also part of the government delegation, recognized the sacrifices made by the MILF and all those who have been engaged in the decades-long struggle for genuine autonomy.

“The road to peace is a long and difficult one. You have gone through a lot,” Zubiri said.

The senator from Bukidnon, who was among the major supporters of the BOL in the Senate, promised that once the law is ratified, the BARMM government “will no longer have to beg for funds.”

Aside from the Block Grant and Special Development Fund that are expected to boost economic activity in the area, Zubiri said the region will also have increased fiscal autonomy, a parliament that is more inclusive and Shariah courts that would enhance the local justice system.

He then recalled a visit made by Presidential Peace Adviser for Peace, Reconciliation and Unity Carlito Galvez Jr. to the MILF camp in Darapanan last year when he was still the AFP chief of staff.

Zubiri said that during Galvez’ meeting with Chairman Murad, the two released a joint statement saying: “The war is over.”

“You must realize that this (BOL) is a golden opportunity for just, dignified, lasting peace,” Zubiri concluded, as he called on the people to vote for Yes. ###

By | January 19th, 2019|MILF, MNLF, News|0 Comments

President Duterte leads call for ratification of BOL in Cotabato City

SHARIFF KABUNSUAN COMPLEX, COTABATO CITY (January 19, 2019) — President Rodrigo Duterte joined thousands of Moro and non-Moro residents here on Friday in a grand peace assembly to make a final pitch for the ratification of the Bangsamoro Organic Law (BOL).

“The fact we have reached this point after so many years of negotiations and interruptions, we are here,” the President said in his keynote address, referring to the decades-long peace process between the Philippine Government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF).

“Let us forget the bitterness of the past and look forward to the future. Which means ladies and gentlemen, mga mahal kong mga Moro brother or sister, magboto kayo ng Yes,” Duterte said.

“Your approval of this law will not only serve as an expression of your desire to end more than half-a-century of armed struggle in the region, it will also serve as a testament to your determination to bring peace,” he added.

Honoring all signed peace agreements

“This landmark law was not built entirely from scratch. It echoes the aspirations and principles embodied in the past peace agreements [with] the different Moro fronts,” Duterte said, who was also accompanied by his top peace and security cabinet officials during his visit to this city.

Among the cabinet officials who joined the President were Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana, National Security Adviser Hermogenes Esperon Jr., Interior Secretary Eduardo Año, Presidential Peace Adviser Carlito Galvez Jr., Cabinet Secretary Karlo Nograles, Deputy Presidential Peace Adviser Nabil Tan, Department of Social Welfare and Development Secretary Rolando Bautista and Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo.

“Indeed, it is a product of blood, sweat and tears of many great men who came before us,” Duterte said.

The President, who hails from Mindanao, had pledged even before his assumption into office to address the historical injustices committed against the Bangsamoro people.

This commitment resulted in the crafting of the Duterte Administration’s Peace and Development Agenda wherein all signed peace agreements with the various Moro fronts will be honored and implemented.

These include the Final Peace Agreement (FPA) signed between the Philippine Government and the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) in 1996 and the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro (CAB) forged between the national government and the MILF in 2014.

The BOL, which was signed into law by the Duterte in July 2018, is considered a groundbreaking measure as it represents the hopes and aspirations of the Moro people and is anticipated to provide a genuine solution to the decades-long armed conflict in Mindanao.

An inclusive law

According to the President, the law is anchored on the principle of inclusivity, being a product of a comprehensive consultation process among the tri-people of Mindanao.

“We listened to the indispensable sentiments and concerns of Muslims, Christians, Lumads, and other indigenous people and various stakeholders who also call Mindanao their own,” Duterte said.

He likewise highlighted the major benefits of the BOL, while expressing confidence it will be able to respond to the pressing issues being confronted by the proposed Bangsamoro region.

“I am proud to say the BOL has undergone comprehensive analysis and thorough review to ensure that once implemented, it will lead to better governance, inclusive political empowerment, and enhanced systems of transparency and accountability,” Duterte said.

“Your approval of this law will not only serve as an expression of your desire to end more than half-a-century of armed struggle in the region, it will also serve as a testament to your determination to bring peace,” he added.

In conclusion, the President called on the Moro people to support the BOL and vote for its ratification.

“To my dear Bangsamoro brothers and sisters, as you exercise your sacred right to vote in this plebiscite, I remind you that the power to chart the course of your future is now solely in your hands,” Duterte said.

Rallying the support of the people

For his part, MILF Chairman Ebrahim Murad admitted that the concerns his organization are now facing seem greater than the ones they encountered as revolutionaries.

“The challenges ahead are much greater than what we have surpassed in the past. It is not an easy job to transform from [being] a revolutionary to [people in] governance,” Murad said.

The top MILF leader, however, said he was confident his group will be able to overcome these challenges with the support of the Moro and non-Moro people.

“Our success lies on how we are going to mobilize our people and the other people in the area,” he said.

Murad expressed his appreciation to local government units as well as Christian settlers across the region who have thrown their support behind the law.

“To the LGUs who have shown their overwhelming support, we offer our commitment to work with you. To our brothers and sisters in the Christian faith, we offer you the hand of peace,” he said.

 “So that together, we can bring development and progress to every corner of this region,” he added.

Murad thanked the President for the unequivocal support he has given to BOL, specifically for the strong push he made to ensure the law’s passage in Congress.

“You are always [by] our side. If you did not become president, we will not have a BOL,” he said.

Not an ordinary law

At the same event, MNLF Central Committee Chairman Yusoph Jikiri said the BOL will have a great impact on the lives of the Moro people.

“This is no ordinary law. This is the product of 50 long years of struggle,” Jikiri said.

He noted that the BOL is a convergence of all the peace agreements between the Philippine Government and the various Moro fronts.

Jikiri recalled a tripartite meeting organized by the Organization of Islamic Conference (OIC) years ago which called on the Philippine Government and the MNLF to review and preserve the gains of the 1996 Final Peace Agreement.

During the meeting, he said the OIC recommended that the MNLF and MILF come up with a “common mechanism” that would enable both groups to work harmoniously.

The tripartite meeting, Jikiri said, helped bridge the gap between the two rebel groups which eventually resulted to the strong partnership in pushing for the BOL’s passage and ratification.

“The BOL is better than the ARMM Organic Law in terms of resources. We should not miss this opportunity for progress,” he said.

Bound by history

In the meantime, ARMM Governor Mujiv Hataman said the Moro people are bound by their history.

Hataman said that when the region’s people cast their vote on January 21 and February 6, they will be writing another chapter in their history.

He pointed out that the conduct of the plebiscite is a testament to the success of the peace process and sends a strong message to all that the armed conflict in the area is finally over.

“In our journey [for peace], let us not forget that our success is anchored in our unity. We have been together in our struggle. We will be united in our victory,” Hataman said.

By | January 19th, 2019|MILF, MNLF, News|0 Comments

Duterte’s top execs in Sulu to underscore the importance of BOL in search for just and lasting peace

PATIKUL, Sulu, January 18, 2019 — President Rodrigo Roa Duterte on Thursday sent his top security and peace secretaries here to pitch for the ratification of the Bangsamoro Organic Law (BOL) days before the plebiscite scheduled on January 21.

Led by Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana, the powerhouse group was composed of National Security Adviser Hermogenes Esperon, Interior Secretary Eduardo Año Jr., Presidential Peace Adviser Carlito Galvez Jr., Cabinet Secretary Karlo Nograles, Deputy Presidential Peace Adviser Nabil Tan, and Armed Forces of the Philippines Chief of Staff Benjamin Madrigal.

History unfolding

Lorenzana urged the more than 10,000 residents gathered at the gymnasium of Mindanao State University not to miss the opportunity to ratify the BOL.

“This is our chance to make our present situation better…We shall pass on a more prosperous Mindanao to the next generation,” the defense chief said.

“What is happening right now is history in the making,” he added.

Lorenzana said the BOL is a testament that the Bangsamoro people in Mindanao are “lovers of peace.”

“This is our dream. Even though I am not a Muslim, I grew up in Muslim-dominated area in Maguindanao, I am with you in dreaming of a prosperous Mindanao,” he said.

Lorenzana grew up in the town of Parang in Maguindanao and studied in Notre Dame College.

More powerful political entity

“The Bangsamoro people’s aspiration for social justice, equality, peace, and prosperity is shared by all peace-loving Filipino people,” he said.

Lorenzana also challenged the future leaders of the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao to practice good governance to make peace sustainable.

The BOL aims to establish a more powerful political structure for the people in Mindanao.

President Duterte signed the BOL on July 27, 2018. The law is part of his campaign promise to heed the Moro people’s clamor for a genuine autonomy, saying the nation needs to address the “historical injustices committed against the Moro people” in Mindanao.

Duterte Administration’s legacy

Yusop Jikiri, chair of the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF), said the BOL “responds to the long-standing wishes and expectation of our people that will greatly impact the lives of the present and future generations of the Bangsamoro people.”

Jikiri expressed his gratitude to the Cabinet secretaries for gracing the grand assembly for the BOL.

“The only objective of these officials (Cabinet secretaries) in coming to Sulu is to help us achieve overwhelming victory for the BOL because this is also the marching order of the President,” he said.

“Our President is seriously concerned for the ratification of the new autonomy law for the Bangsamoro because it is the legacy of his administration to put an end to the historical injustices committed against the Bangsamoro people,” Jikiri said.

“The BOL is the only available solution to the aspirations of our people,” he pointed out as he encourage the people to vote Yes to the BOL.

Rallying call

Nograles announced the entire Cabinet is 100% in support of the ratification of the BOL.

“We believe the BOL is the key for peace in Mindanao,” he said, narrating the work during the previous 16th Congress on the Bangsamoro Basic Law, the first version of the law.

Nograles urged the people not to miss this opportunity and ratify the BOL.

“On Monday, we should unite and write in our ballot our Yes votes to the BOL,” he told the crowd.

Peace warriors

Esperon, for his part, narrated his experiences when he was a young officer assigned in Sulu in 1970s.

He disclosed that among those he engaged in an armed encounter is no other than Jikiri himself.

“Even among rival warriors, we can be friends because we have only one objective and that objective is to bring peace in our area,” Esperon said.

“We came here today because we are 100% in support of the ratification of the BOL,” he said, adding with the BOL,” it is now the time to bring the luster of Sulu.”

Template for Federalism

Año explained that the BOL is a template for the federal setup of government.

“Our present government under the Duterte administration is advocating for a federal system. The good thing here is that the Bangsamoro government is the step for our federal form of government,” he said.

Año said with the ratification of the BOL,“we can now solve the armed conflict not only the secessionist groups but more importantly the terrorist groups.”

The law, he said, will empower the Moro and non-Moro communities residing in the area.

“We will now have a Bangsamoro government with more power, more autonomy, and more resources,”  he said.

“This is the time to tell to the whole country and rest of the world that we will vote Yes to the BOL this January 21,” Año said, generating applause from crowd.

“Mindanao will be the land of real change and the land of fulfillment,” he added. ###


By | January 18th, 2019|MILF, MNLF, News|0 Comments

BOL gains hundred percent support in Marawi City

MARAWI CITY, January 17, 2019 – Thousands of Maranaws rallied their support to ratify the Bangsamoro Organic Law (BOL) in the upcoming plebiscite.

With five days to go before the historic plebiscite, nearly six thousand people representing various groups and sectors gathered at the Dimaporo Gym in Mindanao State University (MSU) on Wednesday for a Peace Assembly to extend support for the landmark legislation.

In his remarks, MSU President Dr. Habib Macaayong reiterated the university’s support for the new Bangsamoro Government.

“The Mindanao State University opens wide its road to you. Umasa kayo na sa pagtungo sa bagong umaga, kasama ninyo kami. Mabuhay ang Bangsamoro Organic Law,” Macaayong said.

Urging the people to participate in plebiscite on January 21, 2019, Arim Jamal Urandig, representative of the Ulama sector, said peace and prosperity will follow once the BOL is ratified.

“Let us go out and vote. Let peace happen by voting ‘Yes’ to BOL. Your vote can help attain the aspirations of our people,” Urandig said.

The same sentiment was shared by Fr. Ramon Torres, Vicar General of the Prelature of St. Mary in Marawi City.

“Peace is our common endeavor. And peace is possible with the ratification of the BOL. It provides us the avenue for the dialogue of life and faith,” he said.

Sultan Bangcola Adtha, Chairman of the Federation of 16 Royal Sultanate of Lanao, said the sultanates stand as one in support of the landmark measure.

“Today, the sultanates in Bangsamoro area are always supportive of President Rodrigo Duterte. Now that the BOL is being approved and we are at the deciding point of ratifying the law, majority of the Bangsamoro region will vote ‘Yes,’” he said.

Being an active stakeholder in the Bangsamoro peace process, the Coalition of Moro Youth President Atty. Shiddick Abantas reaffirmed the organization’s commitment to support the new Bangsamoro Government even after the plebiscite.

“We will campaign and vote ‘Yes’ in the January 21 plebiscite. We will render our unending and tireless support to the Bangsamoro Government. Kami po ang magmamana sa Bangsamoro Government. Alam po namin na kung magiging payapa ang Bangsamoro, kami pong youth ang makikinabang dito,” Abantas said.

Prof. Abhoud Syed Lingga, member of the MILF Peace Implementing Panel, called on the people to campaign for the legislative measure to “change the minds” of the opposition.

“We are here to appeal to you, not only to vote for ‘Yes’ but to go out and campaign actively to convince the undecided and those who are decided to vote ‘No’ to change their minds and vote for ‘Yes’ instead. Why do we have to do that? Because BOL is the implementation of the agreements between the government and the Moro groups,” Lingga said.

Speaking for the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF), Pendamu Sani said they have set aside political differences with the leadership of the MILF to move peace forward.

Nagkakaisa ang MILF at MNLF para sa BOL. We should be reunited the same way our ancestors used to be,” Sani said.

For his part, OPAPP Assistant Secretary Dickson Hermoso appealed to the people to participate in the plebiscite and protect the integrity of the democratic process.

Bantayan natin ang ating boto. Ito ay para sa kinabukasan ng susunod na henerasyon. Kaya kami sa OPAPP ay buong pusong umaapela sa inyo na sa January 21 at February 6 ay lumabas tayo at bumoto ng ‘Yes,’” Hermoso said.


According to the rules and procedures set by the Commission on Elections (COMELEC), registered voters must write down “Yes” or “No” in Filipino, English or in their corresponding local language for every item or question. Otherwise, votes written in any other form such as through check or cross marks will be considered void and will not be included in the vote count.

Ending his message, Hermoso encouraged the people to listen to President Rodrigo Duterte as he is set to attend the BOL rally in Cotabato City.

On Tuesday, Malacañang confirmed that President Duterte will attend the BOL rally in Cotabato City on January 18 to appeal to the people to vote for ratification of the legislative measure. ###

By | January 17th, 2019|MILF, MNLF, News|0 Comments

Galvez, UN to beef up ties for Bangsamoro transition

PASIG CITY, January 12, 2019 — Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process Secretary Carlito Galvez Jr. urged the United Nations (UN) to continue its assistance in providing capacity development to key leaders in the Bangsamoro.

“Our focus now is how to have good governance on the new Bangsamoro government. I would like to request the UN family to help us in mentoring key leaders on how to be efficient and effective in governance,” Galvez told officials of various UN agencies who paid a courtesy call on his office on Friday.

Galvez also thanked UN for its continued support for the peace process in the Philippines.

“I think your projects that are people-centered and those on human resource development are good. I would like to thank you for helping us and sharing the same goal,” he said.

Galvez cited the role of UN agencies in helping counter violent extremism, preventing the recruitment of child soldiers, empowering women, and developing the whole Mindanao region.

“I believe that if we have peace in Mindanao, we have peace in the Philippines. If we have development in Mindanao, we have development in the Philippines,” he said.

The United Nations’ partnership framework is anchored on the Sustainable Development Goals 2019-2023. It aims to achieve outcomes related to people-centeredness, economic prosperity, and peace.

In his remarks during the courtesy call, UN Resident Coordinator Ola Almgren expressed interest in OPAPP’s practices in the peace process.

“OPAPP has contributed a lot to the global practice. UN is looking forward to your experiences and best practices, hoping that you can participate in global fora and share them as well as to work with you and your staff,” he said.

Among the UN agencies present in the meeting were the United Nations Development Programme, United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund, UN Women, International Organization for Migration, and Prevention on Violent Extremism. ###

By | January 12th, 2019|MILF, MNLF, News|0 Comments

Japan affirms support to PH peace process this year

PASIG CITY, January 10, 2019 — The Japanese government on Thursday affirmed its support for the Philippines’ peace process.

Paying a courtesy call to new Presidential Peace Adviser Carlito Galvez Jr., Japanese Ambassador to the Philippines Koji Haneda committed his country’s continued support for various peace process mechanisms and programs, projects and activities (PPAs) that are being implemented by the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) in Mindanao.

Galvez expressed gratitude to Japan for continuously being an active partner for peace and development.

“The level of your investment and presence in our country demonstrates the unwavering support and commitment of Japan to help us attain just and lasting peace,” he said.

Japan has provided a total of $5.98 billion as its official development assistance (ODA) to the Philippines as of the third quarter of 2018, making it the country’s biggest donor according to the National Economic and Development Authority.

During their meeting, Galvez updated Haneda on the Bangsamoro Organic Law (BOL), particularly on its impending plebiscite on January 21 and February 6, 2019.

Haneda said Japan hopes the BOL “wins the heart of the Bangsamoro people.”

“Japan will continue its support to the peace process,” he added.

Among the peace process mechanisms that Japan had participated in were the International Contact Group, International Monitoring Team, Independent Decommissioning Body, Joint Normalization Committee, Joint Peace and Security Committee, and Independent Commission on Policing.

Galvez developed a close relationship with the Japanese embassy in 2012 during the turn-over of two-storey school building in Basilan and first meeting in Cambug Albarka with MILF 104 BC Commander Haji Dan Asnawi with the facilitation of the ICG-IMT Ceasefire Mechanism.

ODAs and grants were also implemented by the Japan government through the Japan-Bangsamoro Initiatives for Reconstruction and Development (J-BIRD) and JICA-assisted PPAs. ###

By | January 10th, 2019|MILF, MNLF, News|0 Comments

MNLF leadership reiterates support for BOL’s ratification

ZAMBOANGA CITY, January 10, 2019 — The leadership of the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) met with Presidential Peace Adviser Carlito G. Galvez Jr. on Tuesday to give assurance of their commitment to the campaign for the peaceful and orderly ratification of the Bangsamoro Organic Law (BOL).

Yusop Jikiri, the chair of the MNLF central committee, led the group in stressing their support to President Rodrigo Duterte’s call to ratify the law.

Jikiri said the MNLF is “100 percent behind President Duterte’s aspiration to bring lasting peace and progress in Mindanao.”

On October 6, 2018, the MNLF central committee passed a resolution officially accepting and supporting the BOL, describing the law as the “more appropriate political solution to the Bangsamoro issue.”

In the resolution, the MNLF leadership vowed to mobilize their members and communities to actively “campaign and lobby” for the BOL in order to gain support for the upcoming plebiscite and “to ensure the success of the new Bangsamoro autonomy.”

Galvez congratulated the MNLF for carrying out orderly, peaceful and successful campaign rallies across the proposed territory of the future Bangsamoro autonomous region.

“You have shown to our people your passion and commitment on how we really wanted the BOL to push through and be ratified convincingly,” he told members of the MNLF central committee.

For the past weeks, the MNLF has been conducting several campaign rallies — independently and jointly with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) and other organizations — which generated thousands of supporters. The most recent was last Friday in Cotabato City where thousands joined the caravan.

Galvez also called on the MNLF to ensure that the conduct of the plebiscite will truly reflect the will of the people without intimidation and coercion.

“The ratification of the BOL will bring peace and security, unity, reconciliation, and progress not only in Mindanao but to the whole country” he said.

Galvez encouraged the MNLF members and their communities to come out and vote in this historic plebiscite.

The plebiscite is scheduled on January 21 for the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) and the cities of Isabela and Cotabato.

Another plebiscite is scheduled on February 6 for Lanao del Norte, North Cotabato, and other areas that filed a petition to join the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao.

Commissioner Jose Lorena of the Bangsamoro Transition Commission noted the strong support of the MNLF in the political process.

“We are happy that the partnership between the MNLF and MILF is growing by the day. This is an indication that all of us are united with one objective, and that objective is to bring peace,” he said.

“The Bangsamoro people should stand in this golden opportunity to be become one. We need to hurdle the first obstacle which is passing the BOL through this plebiscite not only by simple majority but by a big number,” he added. ###

By | January 10th, 2019|MILF, MNLF, News|0 Comments

Tawi-tawi residents celebrate BOL’s victory ahead of plebiscite

BONGAO, Tawi-tawi, January 7, 2019 – Residents of this southernmost island-province are already celebrating the ratification of the Bangsamoro Organic Law (BOL) yesterday less than three weeks before the conduct of the plebiscite.

“The event right now is not a campaign rally for the BOL.  Rather, we are already celebrating its victory as early as now,” Tawi-tawi Gov. Rashidin Matba said in Filipino.

“BOL has overwhelming support in Tawi-tawi,” he added.

Organizers of the event, composed of local government officials and civil society groups in Tawi-tawi, decided to hold an “advanced celebration” due to their high expectations the BOL will win in the province.

Festive mood

In a celebratory mood, thousands of people converged at the Mindanao State University Gym, which was festooned with large tarpaulins bearing President Rodrigo Duterte’s statement encouraging voters to ratify the BOL.

Observers note that even opposing politicians here have set aside their political differences to demonstrate their full support for the ratification for the BOL.

Tawi-Tawi Representative Ruby Sahali, chair of the House Panel on Peace, Reconciliation, and Unity, who was among proponents of the landmark measure, was also actively involved in the defense of the BOL during its deliberations in Congress last year.

Murad Ebrahim Al Hadj, chairman of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), said he was “impressed” by the optimism shown by the people of Tawi-tawi over the ratification of the BOL.

“The first thing I saw when we landed at the airport was a tarpaulin stating the victory of the BOL. I was very impressed,” Ebrahim said.

“I thought I came here to advocate and campaign for the BOL. But when I saw the tarpaulin, I said to myself, there’s no need anymore because it is already a victory in Tawi-tawi,” he said.

Ebrahim made a bold prediction: “We are expecting that on January 21, the result of the plebiscite in Tawi-tawi is an overwhelming ‘Yes’ vote and zero ‘No.’”

He said that once the law is ratified, “it will address the issue of the Moro people’s right to self-determination, which is to define our own future.”

“Aside from being a Filipino, we are Bangsamoro. This is our collective identity as one people,” he said, adding that under the BOL, all Moro tribes shall enjoy equal rights.

Better than the ARMM

At the same event, Deputy Presidential Peace Adviser Nabil Tan emphasized the passage of a law creating an autonomous region in Mindanao is mandated by the 1987 Constitution.

“The Constitution says there shall be two autonomous regions; [one] in Muslim Mindanao and [the other] in the Cordillera,” he said, adding the Constitution recognizes the legitimate aspirations of the Bangsamoro people.

Tan said he is familiar with the challenges confronted by Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) officials.

“We were scraping the bottom (of the barrel) because we didn’t have substantial support and resources. I saw the deficiencies first hand,” he noted.

Tan served as the first assemblyman representing the First District of Sulu from 1990 to 1993. He assumed the post of ARMM vice governor from 1993 to 1996.

He recalled the time when ARMM was just in its infancy stage. During that period, the devolution of powers from the central government to the region’s leadership was still being fine-tuned.

Tan said this is a major difference between the ARMM Organic Law and the BOL.

“It is not just devolving powers but granting powers,” he emphasized.

The BOL, which reflects all the signed peace agreements between the government and the Moro fronts, envisions to create a more powerful autonomous government with adequate financial resources that would be at par with other regions in the country.

“There’s a need to bring dignity in the autonomous region,” Tan declared, while urging voters not to miss this opportunity to ratify the law.

“There will be no other greater opportunity than this time since we have a President who hails from Mindanao and understands the aspirations of the Bangsamoro people,” he said.

“Approve this in a plebiscite and make this work,” Tan added.

Ending the cycle of violence

For his part, Mohagher Iqbal, chair of the Implementing Peace Panel of the MILF, and a member of the Bangsamoro Transition Commission (BTC), said 160,000 people have died during the course of the Moro struggle, and it is about time to end this cycle of violence.

“We are already seeing the light at end of the tunnel. It’s not just flickering light but a very clear light,” Iqbal said.

Meanwhile, Bongao Mayor Jimuel Que said the residents of Tawi-tawi are known to be “peace-loving people that’s why we support the BOL. We want to achieve lasting peace and development, and progress.”

On the other hand, Ismael Salih, mayor of the town of Languyan, urged residents to be “united and vote Yes to the BOL.”

There are two scheduled plebiscite dates for the BOL. The first one will be held on January 21 covering the entire ARMM, and the cities of Isabela and Cotabato. The second is on February 6, which will cover the provinces in Lanao del Norte and North Cotabato. ###

By | January 7th, 2019|MILF, MNLF, News|0 Comments
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