Duterte: After BOL ratification, talks with Misuari next
Once the Bangsamoro Organic Law (BOL) is ratified, President Duterte said he would like to talk to his “beloved friend,” Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) founding chair Nur Misuari, in hopes of arriving at another peace deal that would benefit Muslims in Mindanao.
“Though he’s not here, he’s a critical factor in the overall process not only in Mindanao but in the entire Philippines,” Mr. Duterte said of Misuari on Friday at a peace assembly in Cotabato City that was meant to drum up support for the BOL’s ratification.
The President said he would ensure the “least disturbance or interference” as long as there is a “workable governance” in the Bangsamoro region.
“Lands will be distributed justly (and) resources divided by the Moro who are there in possession of the land. No one will disturb you,” Mr. Duterte said.
MILF security role
In Sharif Aguak, Maguindanao, a security analyst on Friday stressed the need for the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) to secure polling places for the plebiscite set for Jan. 21 and Feb. 6 to ratify the BOL.
Rommel Banlaoi, who chairs the Philippine Institute for Peace, Violence and Terrorism Research, warned that Islamic State (IS)-aligned forces, such as the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters and the Abu Sayyaf Group, might disrupt the plebiscite because of their opposition to the creation of a Bangsamoro government.
Their aspiration is to establish a “wilaya” (province) of IS in Mindanao, Banlaoi said.
Other threats could emanate from local warlords or politicians opposed to the creation of the proposed Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM) that will replace the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM), he added.
Sulu Gov. Abdusakur Tan II, who questioned before the Supreme Court the legality of the BOL, and Cotabato City Mayor Cynthia Guiani-Sayadi, have rejected the prospect of being part of the new Bangsamoro region.
Von Al Haq, spokesperson of the Bangsamoro Islamic Armed Forces, the MILF’s armed wing, early this week offered to secure Cotabato City and its peripheries in the wake of reports that armed men were planning to attack the city that was rocked on New Year’s Eve by an explosion that killed two and wounded over 30 others.
The plebiscite to ratify the BOL is set for Jan. 21 for all areas under the ARMM and the cities of Cotabato and Isabela, and on Feb. 6 for voters in Lanao del Norte (except Iligan City), six towns in North Cotabato, and other areas that have petitioned for inclusion in the future BARMM.
Retired generals join drive
The BOL is anchored on the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro, the final peace deal signed by the government and the MILF in 2014.
In Patikul, Sulu, the MILF found unlikely allies in four retired Armed Forces of the Philippines generals who were sent by President Duterte to boost the “yes” campaign for BOL ratification in the province.
Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana and three former AFP chiefs of staff—retired general now security adviser Hermogenes Esperon Jr.; Gen. Eduardo Año, now interior secretary; and Gen. Carlito Galvez Jr., now peace adviser, urged their audience of 13,000 to support the BOL in a rally at the Mindanao State University gymnasium on Thursday.
“Their experiences in past wars here brought them to a realization that peace is the ultimate solution,” said Yusof Jikiri, chair of the MNLF in Sulu.
“What is happening right now is history in the making … We shall pass on a more prosperous Mindanao to the next generation,” said Lorenzana, referring to Sulu, a province earlier cited for its strong opposition to the BOL.
AFP Chief of Staff Gen. Benjamin Madrigal Jr. also assured voters that more than 10,000 troops will secure the areas for the plebiscite.
The BOL offers self-determination to the nation’s four million Muslims by empowering them to elect their own parliament and giving Muslims in Mindanao control over local government functions, including taxation and education.
Authorities hope that the BOL will end a nearly 40-year conflict, which has killed more than 120,000 people in Mindanao. As part of a deal struck with Manila over the BOL, the MILF also agreed to disband its fighting force. —WITH REPORTS FROM BONG SARMIENTO, JEOFFREY MAITEM AND SHEILA MAY DELA CRUZ
Subscribe to INQUIRER PLUS to get access to The Philippine Daily Inquirer & other 70+ titles, share up to 5 gadgets, listen to the news, download as early as 4am & share articles on social media. Call 896 6000.