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Plebiscite to become choice between food, guns

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By Ali Macabalang

BULUAN, Maguindanao – It’s going to be a choice “between foods and guns” for the Moro people when they troop to the poll precincts and decided on whether or not to approve Republic Act (RA) 11054 or the Bangsamoro Organic Law (BOL).

And for Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) Chairman Hadji Murad Ebrahim, the Moro people’s “proclivity for guns” will take the backseat when the fate of the BOL is decided in a plebiscite to be held January 21 and February 6.

MILF chair Murad Ebrahim, Maguindanao Gov. Esmael Mangudadatu, and local and national officials standing in solemn prayer for “peaceful ratification” of the Bangsamoro Organic Law in upcoming plebiscites, during a grand pro-BOL rally in Buluan town on Tuesday. (ALI MACABALANG / MANILA BULLETIN)

MILF chair Murad Ebrahim, Maguindanao Gov. Esmael Mangudadatu, and local and national officials standing in solemn prayer for “peaceful ratification” of the Bangsamoro Organic Law in upcoming plebiscites, during a grand pro-BOL rally in Buluan town on Tuesday. (ALI MACABALANG / MANILA BULLETIN)

Due to oppression and injustices in the past, stretching to as far back as the colonization eras, many Moro people have practiced “collecting and preferring guns over other matters including wives,” Murad noted.

“But these people will be compelled to disarm and start peaceful life to earn for their families’ stable foods, education, health and other necessities when their communities are characterized by responsive governance,” he said.

BOL seeks the replacement of the 29-year old Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) by a geopolitical entity – the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM) – guaranteed by Congress and Malacañang of more autonomy and subsidies to end decades of armed conflict that had taken some 200,000 lives already.

“Insha-Allah (God willing), we are more certain now of the ratification of BOL,” the Ebrahim told a press conference at the newly-completed provincial capitol building here Tuesday morning before addressing a huge crowd of supporters in nearby Buluan gym.

Ebrahim, more fondly called Hadji Murad or Amiril mujahideen (leader of freedom fighters), admitted at the rally that some MILF leaders were intrigued in the earlier filing of candidacy for ARMM governor by former Buluan town Mayor Ibrahim “Jhong” Mangudadatu because of the “decisive” voting population in Maguindanao.

The Jan. 21 plebiscite will cover ARMM areas, namely the provinces of Maguindanao, Lanao del Sur, Basilan, Sulu and Tawi-Tawi, and cities of Marawi and Lamitan as well as the cities of Cotabato and Isabela (in Basilan), while the Feb. 6 referendum will be held in Lanao del Norte and North Cotabato provinces as well as other local geopolitical units with approved petitions for inclusion in BARMM.

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