By Ali Macabalang
COTABATO CITY – Peace advocates have urged President Duterte to give more vocal support to for “yes” or ratifying votes in areas outside the existing Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) to ensure the passage of the Bangsamoro Organic Law (BOL).
Ratification of Republic Act (R.A.) 11054, or the BOL, is already expected in component areas of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM), namely, Maguindanao, Lanao del Sur, Sulu, Basilan and Tawi-Tawi provinces and cities of Marawi and Lamitan, where votes in the January 21 plebiscite will be counted as one, according to officials.
But the opposition, they said, appears to be very strong in the cities of Cotabato and Isabela (in Basilan) and Lanao del Norte as well as parts of North Cotabato, which are being considered for coverage under the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM) proposed under BOL.
Voters in these areas, as well as in some 100 other barangays petitioning for inclusion in BARMM, will decide in a separate plebiscite on February 6.
Known supporters of BOL ratification like ARMM Governor Mujiv Hataman and four of his five provincial governors, as well as local civil society organizations (CSOs), have acknowledged the circulation of President Duterte’s video asking stakeholders to “give peace a chance” and vote for “yes” in the plebiscites.
“Talagang sinusuportahan ng Pangulo ito (BOL). Pero ang tingin ko dapat mas actively mag-involve si President rito sa kampanya na dapat manalo ang ‘yes’ (in areas outside ARMM),” Hataman was quoted as saying.
Hataman was hinting at a popular clamor for the President to meet all key leaders in ARMM, Cotabato and Isabela cities, Lanao del Norte and North Cotabato, and persuade them to appreciate brighter potentials in the ratification of BOL.
Local CSOs have corroborated Hataman’s views, saying the President “should at least ask reigning politicians to let their constituent voters to decide free.”
The Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process (OPAPP) and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), as well as local leaders of the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF), have focused their campaign on Cotabato City, considered the “crown jewel” for the Moro fronts, and Lanao del Norte.
But they are going up against popular Cotabato City Mayor Cynthia Guiani-Sayadi and the Dimaporo clan of Lanao del Norte, who have taken a strong stand against the inclusion of their turfs in BARMM.