President Duterte shakes hands with Moro Islamic Liberation Front chairman Al-Hajj Murad Ebrahim on the sidelines of the peace assembly for the ratification of the Bangsamoro Organic Law at the Shariff Kabunsuan Cultural Complex in Cotabato City the other day. Also in the photo are DILG Secretary Eduardo Año, Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process Carlito Galvez Jr. and Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana.
‘Let’s forget bitterness of the past’
Edith Regalado (The Philippine Star) - January 20, 2019 - 12:00am

DAVAO CITY, Philippines — As people troop to voting precincts to either ratify or reject Republic Act 11054 or the Bangsamoro Organic Law (BOL) tomorrow, President Duterte hopes that a “Yes” vote would mark a new chapter in the nation’s history, bringing lasting peace and inclusive growth for the long-troubled South.

“Let us forget the bitterness of the past and look forward to the future,” the President said as he pitched for the approval of BOL in tomorrow’s plebiscite in areas covered by the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM).

The BOL would pave the way for the establishment of a Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM), which is envisioned to ensure greater autonomy for the areas it covers.

“Mindanao can finally enjoy lasting peace and inclusive growth that will benefit the entire Philippines, not only you. It will mark a new chapter in our history, one (where) every person is treated with respect regardless of ethnicity, gender, religion or ideological leanings,” Duterte said during the peace assembly held in Cotabato City on Friday night.

“I am therefore issuing this call to my fellow Moros: Let us use the plebiscite as a peaceful means to finally correct the historical injustices committed against the Moro, Bangsamoro people or the Moro people of Mindanao. Which means, ladies and gentlemen, my beloved Moro brother or sister, you will vote ‘yes’,” he added.

Security in areas where the plebiscite will be held has been further tightened. Reports say at least two people died in an ambush in Sultan Kudarat town in Maguindanao province just a few hours after Duterte addressed the assembly in Cotabato City. 

Authorities said the incident had nothing to do with the BOL plebiscite but on the disagreements of warring factions in the area.

Meanwhile, presidential adviser on the peace process Carlito Galvez urged Mindanaoans to unite and work hand in hand for a better future for the Bangsamoro people.

In a statement on the conduct of the BOL plebiscite on Jan. 21 and Feb. 6, Galvez appealed to voters in Bangsamoro not to waste a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to change history.

He also urged politicians to refrain from issuing statements that would instill fear and animosity among the people.

“Let us all do our share in ensuring an orderly and peaceful plebiscite… Our Moro brothers and sisters will be making a decision that will change the course of their history. This decision carries the weight of decades of armed struggle to achieve their collective aspiration: meaningful and genuine autonomy,” Galvez said.

He added that the plebiscite for BOL ratification is a momentous event for both the Moro and non-Moro residents of the proposed territory. 

If ratified, Galvez said the BOL would become a landmark measure because it embodies the hopes and dreams of the Moro people and would give back what they rightfully deserve as well as address the historical injustices committed against them. 

“This was a recognition made by President Duterte himself. We are therefore pleased to note that the BOL has garnered the support of the country’s leading policy and economic experts who share a common view that the law will help unleash the full economic potential of the region and bring sustainable peace and development to the area,” the statement also read.

Galvez said the law builds on the gains of the Bangsamoro peace process and is a realization of the national government’s firm commitment to honor all signed agreements with the various Moro fronts.

Malacañang has declared Jan. 21 a special non-working day in the ARMM and the cities of Isabela and Cotabato to enable residents to vote.

Sen. Aquilino “Koko” Pimentel III, who is among the lawmakers supportive of the measure, hopes the plebiscite on Monday and on Feb. 6 – for areas outside ARMM that include Lanao del Norte province, the towns of Aleosan, Carmen, Kabacan, Midsayap, Pikit and Pigkayawan in North Cotabato and other places that sought inclusion in the proposed BARMM – will be peaceful.

Although a petition to declare BOL as unconstitutional remains pending before the Supreme Court, Pimentel said the people, especially those against the measure, should respect the result of the plebiscite.

Sen. Sonny Angara, who co-sponsored the BOL in the Senate as chairman of the committee on local government, hopes that the plebiscite would both be peaceful and credible.

He urged the Bangsamoro people to turn out in the largest numbers for the referendum that would determine the fate of the BOL.

If ratified, the BOL will pave the way for the replacement of the 29-year-old Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao with BARMM. – With Jose Rodel Clapano, Cecille Suerte Felipe

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