By Keith Bacongco
PIGCAWAYAN, North Cotabato – In a bid to address the decades of strife, Mayor Eliseo Garcesa Jr. said he is open to the inclusion of eight barangays in this town in the proposed Bangsamoro territory.
The signing of the Organic Law on the Bangsamoro for the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (OLBARMM) into law a month ago was a welcome development, according to Garcesa.
In an interview with Manila Bulletin, he sees no problem in carving out some of the barangays from his town.
“Though I cannot speak for these eight barangays, personally. But the purpose of BOL (Bangsamoro Organic Law) is to give opportunity to those who belong to the Bangsamoro to rule themselves and to work for their peace and progress. We cannot attain peace if we do not give them the opportunity to lead,” explained Garcesa.
The eight barangays are Balacayon, Buricain, Datu Binasing, Kadingilan, Matilac, Lower Baguer, Lower Pangangkalan, and Patot.
Aside from these eight barangays, 31 other barangays from the towns of Aleosan, Kabacan, Midsayap and Pikit are included in the proposed Bangsamoro territory and will participate in the plebiscite either in November or December this year.
These barangays have voted for the inclusion in the proposed expansion of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) in 2001.
But Garcesa pointed out that there must be an exhaustive information drive so that those who still have doubts will understand the law better.
“But since the BOL had already been approved by both Congress and Senate, I don’t have any bigger reason not to favor the law,” he said.
Since 1970, some villages of this town have been the battlegrounds for government forces and Moro rebels.
The years of conflict has wedged the relationship of Christians and Muslims in this town, which shares its boundary with the towns of Buldon and Northern Kabuntalan in Maguindanao.
The former headquarters of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) Camp Abubakar Assidque was accessible through Patot village, which is contiguous to Buldon town.
In times of war even in neighboring areas, tension remains here as security forces prepare for spillover.
However, Garcesa noted that the Bangsamoro law may not be the absolute solution to the decades of conflict but it would be a good start. “Because this is a process wherein we can give recognition to our Muslim brothers and those who want to be a part of the Bangsamoro government to prove themselves.”