By Ali Macabalang
BULUAN, Maguindanao – The movers behind the Bangsamoro Organic Law’s (BOL) approval have shifted the venue of their long-planned grand rally to this provincial capital town after the Cotabato City officialdom reportedly refused to grant them a permit.
Maguindanao Gov. Esmael Mangudadatu and Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) Chairman Hadji Murad Ebrahim came up with a joint video message Thursday night to invite the public to the pro-BOL miting de avance in this town on January 15 or six days before the conduct of a plebiscite on the new law.
Mangudadatu earlier told the Manila Bulletin that rally organizers have decided the transfer of the event venue because Cotabato City Mayor Cynthia Guiani-Sayadi would not issue them permit.
“Ayaw daw magbigay ng permit ni Mayor Cynthia,” said the governor, who announced in December the scheduling of the rally inside the 32-hectare compound of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) in Cotabato City.
ARMM Gov. Mujiv Hataman, a known advocate of “yes” vote for BOL, instantly approved the conduct of the rally inside the regional compound.
In their joint video message, Mangudadatu and Chairman Ebrahim spoke in Maguindanao dialect and elaborated on the essence of BOL ratification as an “answer to age-old clamor for Bangsamoro self-determination.”
“Vote yes. Vote for peace,” the two officials said while flashing of peace sign.
Local military and police officials favor the shift of the rally venue here from Cotabato City, citing security concerns.
On Thursday morning, soldiers intercepted on a bridge linking Cotabato City and Maguindanao’s Datu Odin Sinsuat town a motorcycle driver allegedly bringing in an improvised explosive. The suspect, named as Talib Datukali Dingo, reportedly resisted and engaged the soldiers in a shootout. He died in the hospital a few hours later.
The Region XII police office deployed also on Thursday 360 more cops in the city to augment security forces in securing the Jan. 21 plebiscite.
The BOL, docketed as R.A. 11054, was enacted in July in pursuit of the 2014 peace deal between the MILF and the government. It seeks the creation of a Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM) in lieu of the 29-year old ARMM.
If the BOL is ratified, BARMM will absorb the ARMM component areas of Maguindanao, Lanao del Sur, Basilan, Sulu and Tawi-Tawi provinces and the cities of Marawi and Lamitan alongside Cotabato and Isabela cities, six towns in Lanao del Norte, and 39 barangays in six North Cotabato towns.
Lawyer Ray Sumalipao, election director for ARMM, said that at least 2.8 million voters will participate in the plebiscite, more than three fourth of which are registered in the existing autonomous region.
Except for Sulu, from which one of two pending court petitions against the BOL emanated, most incumbent officials in ARMM have projected a “landslide” win for BOL.
An “overwhelming” BOL ratification is expected in Maguindanao and Lanao del Sur, which have the biggest voting population in ARMM with 700,000 and 600,000, respectively.