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Coverage of Bangsamoro core territory questioned

By: - Reporter / @MAgerINQ
/ 03:50 PM February 18, 2014

MANILA, Philippines – The Bangsamoro framework agreement  between the government  and the Moro Islamic Liberation  Front (MILF) on Tuesday came under scrutiny in the Senate as one member questioned  the inclusion of two areas  that did not even vote to be part of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM).

Senator Teofisto Guingona III, chairman of the committee on peace, unification and reconciliation, noted that the provinces of  Isabela and Cotabato were not even part of the ARMM and yet the two were included in the “core territory” of the proposed  Bangsamoro political entity.

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The other “core territory” of the Bangsamoro as provided  for in the agreement includes “the present  geographical area” of  the ARMM,; the  municipalities of Balaoi, Munai, Nunungan, Panta, Tagloan, and Tangkal in the province of Lanao del Norte, and all other villages in the  municipalities of Kabacan, Carmen, Aleosan, Pigkawayan, Pikit, and Midsayap that  voted for the inclusion  in the ARMM during the  2001 plebiscite.

“Why, for example, is Cotabato and Isabela included,  stated as the core territory when I know right now Cotabato and Isabela are not part of the ARMM?” Guingona said during the hearing of his committee.

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“Cotabato if I remembered right voted twice  against their inclusion…” he further said.

But Professor Miriam Colonel-Ferrer explained that the inclusion of the two provinces in the agreement did not mean that they are automatically included in the Bangsamoro.

“What we have  enumerated here are the areas  where the plebiscites will be held. And therefore, they will be asked, they will be asked again, this time not for the ARMM but for the Bangsamoro, if they wish to  be effectively included ….” Colonel-Ferrer said.

Zamboanga Representative Celso Lobregat, who was present in the hearing, also questioned the coverage  of the “core territory,” specifically  the part, which states that “all  other contiguous areas where there is a resolution of the local government unit or a petition of at least 10 percent  of the qualified voters in the area asking for their inclusion at least two months prior to the conduct of the ratification of the Bangsamoro Basic  Law…”

“Assuming Isabela and Cotabato vote no but the core territory votes yes, can they now be included because the entire core territory said yes? Because remember, the Constitution says any provinces…voting in the affirmative will be included so you can’t have  a  type of plebiscite wherein it will be let’s say, majority of the core territory wins,”  Lobregat said.

“So will the five provinces of the ARMM will be also asked since you said this is a replacement of the ARMM? When they voted to be inside the ARMM, they did not vote to be inside the Bangsamoro,” he pointed out.

Colonel-Ferrer then said Congress may still clarify any grey areas in the agreement as she acknowledged that the “final power belongs to Congress.”

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Secretary Teresita Deles, presidential adviser on peace process ,  also clarified that  the  framework  agreement was not just a “political” document, and not yet legal.

“That is why you have all the flexibility openness and space,” Deles said.

“I hope people will appreciate the fact that the MILF agreed that the arbiter of all of these grey areas is Congress…  I think we have to appreciate that in the areas that negotiations could not settle, it’s Congress that will settle that…,” she added.

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Christian groups push for passage of Bangsamoro basic law

Comelec ready for Bangsamoro plebiscite

Rep. Biazon wants Bangsamoro law passed within year

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