By Francis Wakefield
Proponents of the Bangsamoro Organic Law (BOL) gathered in Isabela City, Basilan on Monday to urge residents to join the future Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM).
“We want everybody to benefit from the fruit of our struggle. We want the city of Isabela to join the BARMM to enjoy the benefits of the BOL,” Murad Ebrahim Al Hadj, the chair of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), told the crowd gathered inside the gymnasium of Basilan State College.
This city is currently not part of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) despite being situated inside its host provincial government, the island province of Basilan.
Basilan is in a similar situation as Cotabato City, which is host to the regional seat of the ARMM but is not part of it.
Both cities will be part of the plebiscite on January 21, along with the entire areas covering the ARMM.
Assistant Secretary Dickson Hermoso of the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process, who represented Presidential Peace Adviser Carlito Galvez Jr., said President Rodrigo Duterte has paved the road to achieve the Moro people’s right to self-determination.
However, he said the President “can’t do this alone.”
“That’s why we need you to participate in the upcoming plebiscite,” he said.
Quoting Secretary Galvez, Hermoso told the people that the achievement of genuine political autonomy is now in their hands by voting favorably for the BOL.
For his part, ARMM Governor Mujiv Hataman said there will be more economic benefits under the BOL.
“If you felt the progress we bring here in Basilan, I’m very sure we will feel more when the BARMM is already established,” he said, citing the financial windfall that the law will bring.
Hataman also allayed the fears of Christians residing in Isabela about joining the BARMM, saying the mayor and vice mayor of nearby Lamitan City are all Christians and can attest that they have never been marginalized.
For Basilan Governor Jim Hataman, the BOL is already a “sure win” in the island province.
“Basilan is all-out in supporting the BOL’s ratification,” he declared.
He said the four towns in the island province, which does not have its own internal revenue allotment (IRA), will be granted their respective IRA under the BOL.
Jose Lorena, a commissioner of the Bangsamoro Transition Commission, said the BOL addresses the aspirations of the Moro people for a “meaningful autonomy.”
Mohagher Iqbal, the chair of the MILF’s Peace Implementing Panel and also a member of the BTC, said the BOL is the product of all peace negotiations between the government and the Moro fronts.
“The best way to settle conflict is a win-win situation,” he said, referring to agreement the MILF signed with the government that resulted in the BOL.
He also corrected some misinformation against the BOL, saying the people should read its intention.
“We are here to appeal for residents in Isabela to ratify the BOL,” he urged, adding that “a vote for ‘yes’ is a vote for peace, unity, and progress.”