Jolo bombings wonât stop 2nd Bangsamoro Organic Law plebiscite
Comelec spokesman James Jimenez yesterday said the midterm polls are still four months away and the agency has not received any recommendation to place Jolo under its direct supervision.
Edd Gumban
Jolo bombings won’t stop 2nd Bangsamoro Organic Law plebiscite
Helen Flores (The Philippine Star) - January 29, 2019 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines — The Commission on Elections (Comelec) does not see the need to place Jolo under its control and defer the Feb. 6 plebiscite on the Bangsamoro Organic Law (BOL) following the twin blasts in a Catholic church while mass was ongoing on Sunday.

Comelec spokesman James Jimenez yesterday said the midterm polls are still four months away and the agency has not received any recommendation to place Jolo under its direct supervision.

Jimenez said the deadly incident will also unlikely affect the plebiscite on the BOL.

“Our preparation is normal. If anything, the police will probably just be on greater watchfulness,” Jimenez disclosed at a press briefing.

Jimenez said the Comelec will await the findings of the Philippine National Police (PNP) on whether the Jolo bombings were related to the BOL that will create the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM).

“But ultimately, it will not affect the outcome of the elections since the plebiscite is already over and result has already been released,” Jimenez noted. 

The Feb. 6 plebiscite will just determine what other areas will be included in the BARMM that will replace Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao or ARMM, Jimenez said.

Truly inclusive

As this developed, Vice President Leni Robredo urged the government to look into the “concerns” of those who voted against the BOL even as she supports its ratification.

Robredo said the government must ensure that “all voices are heard” as it moves forward with the establishment of the BARMM.

Isabela City, the capital of Basilan province, and Sulu rejected the BOL during the plebiscite held last week.

The Vice President stressed the BOL is not an “all-in-one” solution to the decades-old problem in Mindanao like what many are saying, “but we don’t look at it as a solution but an instrument to find a solution.”

Former president and now Manila Mayor Joseph Estrada, for one, said the BOL will not guarantee lasting peace in Mindanao.

Robredo stressed though that BOL can be considered as one of the vital instruments for the people of Mindanao, who she said for the longest time thought they were taken for granted, to express themselves.

“It’s important to have a platform that will give voice to the voiceless,” she said.

For his part, Estrada said during the 118th anniversary of the Manila Police District (MPD) that there should only be one Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) and one flag.

Estrada waged an all-out war against the Moro Islamic Liberation Front and other secessionist forces in Mindanao during his term as president.

The Manila mayor expressed hopes that no other bombings will happen in Mindanao because “President Duterte can handle things and he has political will.”

Estrada said he is confident that the incident in Jolo will not spill into Metro Manila or any part of the country because the PNP and the AFP are vigilant.

Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez III, who was conferred a title of datu and named an honorary member of Bangsa Maranao in Davao City yesterday, is confident the BOL ratification would finally clear the way for Mindanao’s rapid and sustainable development after decades of conflict.

Like Robredo, however, Dominguez pointed out the resounding approval of the BOL and the creation of BARMM are not instant solutions to the problems that have plagued Mindanao for almost a half-century.

According to him, the future success of the new autonomy setup is contingent on the hard work that all sectors are willing to undertake together over the long term.

“We must be aware… that there is no easy path to redemption. There is no magic wand that will instantly cure the malaise we confront – not a new configuration of governance and certainly not a single political speech,” he said.

Dominguez also said the success in rehabilitating and reconstructing the damaged city of Marawi after the bloody conflict in 2017 will symbolize the larger effort of rebuilding the communities in Mindanao that were ravaged by many years of conflict and ensuring a good future for the next generations of Mindanaoans.

The destruction of Marawi, which was the result of the urban warfare waged by government forces to expel militants planning to occupy the city, “was personally traumatic for me,” said Dominguez. “To me, this embodied all the destruction that befell Mindanao communities over the years of trouble.”

Dominguez said he exerted his best efforts to gather funding support from multilateral institutions and the Philippines’ friends in the global community to help the city get back on its feet, raising close to P40 billion, or about half of what is required to rehabilitate and reconstruct the area.

Russian President Vladimir Putin sent condolences to president Duterte in connection with the bombing in Jolo.

The United Kingdom, in a statement released by the British embassy in Manila, Norway and labor group Federation of Free Workers (FFW) welcomed the ratification of the BOL and condemned the deadly bombings in Jolo.

The UK congratulated the Philippines, saying the BOL ratification “presents a truly historic opportunity for lasting peace and prosperity in Mindanao.”

“The UK has directly supported the peace process for many years, and stands ready to continue this support during the creation of the (BARMM),” the statement read.

UK’s Minister for Asia and the Pacific Mark Field and British Ambassador Daniel Pruce condemned the attacks in Jolo.

Field and Pruce said their thoughts and prayers were with the victims and their loved ones.

“The UK stands with the Philippines against terror and hatred,” Field said.

Norwegian Ambassador Bjørn Jahnsen posted on Twitter that “Norway sends its deepest condolences to the families of those who lost their lives” in the bombings.

“We fully support the Bangsamoro peace process and we are an ally for longstanding peace and development in the Philippines,” Norway said.

FFW president  Sonny Matula, for his part, said lasting peace in the country cannot be attained through an all-out war with rebel groups.

“With the adoption of the BOL and the transition under the MILF leadership as well as the decommissioning of its armed group, we can now move forward in a faster phase in national development and lasting peace in southern Philippines,” Matula said.

FFW also described the incident in Jolo as an act not of Muslims or Christians but “terrorists and barbarians.”

“The Philippine authorities need to pursue the perpetrators unrelentlessly and arrest them to face accountability in the bar of justice,” Matula said. 

Meanwhile, MPD director Chief Supt. Vicente Danao Jr. has ordered the police to enhance security measures in Manila and increase visibility. – With Rey Galupo, Lawrence Agcaoili

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