Military to help facilitate dialogues for Bangsamoro plebiscite

John Unson - Philstar.com
Military to help facilitate dialogues for Bangsamoro plebiscite
The Commission on Elections will hold a plebiscite for the proposed region on January 21, 2019.
Boy Santos, file

MAGUINDANAO, Philippines — The military will educate voters on the Bangsamoro Organic Law but not tell them how to vote during the January 21 plebiscite that would seal its fate.

Major Gen. Cirilito Sobejana of the Army's 6th Infantry Division said Wednesday all of their units in central Mindanao will either directly embark on educational forums or extend manpower support to dialogues on the intricacies of the BOL but will not adopt a position for or against it.

“It’s up to the voters to decide during the January 21 referendum,” Sobejana said during Wednesday’s meeting of the inter-agency Maguindanao provincial peace and order council, or PPOC, in Buluan town.

Mangudadatu to campaign for affirmative vote

The meeting was jointly presided over by Sobejana and Maguindanao Gov. Esmael Mangudadatu, chairperson of the PPOC that supports Malacañang’s peace process with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front.

During the PPOC meeting, Mangudadatu committed anew to extend interventions that could hasten efforts of the 6th ID and all peace advocacy blocs to educate the public on how BOL can end decades of secessionist strife in southern provinces.

Mangudadatu also told Sobejana that he can speak in dialogues on the benefits of the BOL since he is not seeking reelection.

"Politically, I don't have any plan yet for now. I’m busy uniting our political leaders in the province for the good of the peace process. Leaders in Maguindanao support the peace process. We have to remain solidly together on that," Mangudadatu said.

The PPOC meeting on Wednesday was attended by mayors from across Maguindanao, many of them openly campaigning for BOL, a product of 19 years of peace talks between the government and the MILF.

Provincial officials of the Commission on Elections, Superintendent Edwin Wagan of the Maguindanao police office and Army and Marine brigade commanders were also present in the meeting.

The BOL is the enabling measure for the replacement of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao with a more empowered Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao, or BARMM.

The transition from ARMM to BARMM shall be facilitated jointly by the MILF-led Bangsamoro Transition Authority and ARMM Gov. Mujiv Hataman.

Hataman has also been actively campaigning for a "yes" vote for the BOL at the plebiscite in ARMM’s five provinces.

The Comelec will also administer the plebiscite in Isabela City in Basilan, in Cotabato City and in parts of Lanao del Norte and North Cotabato, all outside of ARMM.

The ARMM, which has a regional charter, the Republic Act 9054, groups together Maguindanao and Lanao del Sur, both in mainland Mindanao, and the island provinces of Basilan, Sulu and Tawi-Tawi.

AFP must be neutral on plebiscite

Sobejana clarified to reporters that 6th ID has to be neutral on the BOL in keeping with the mandate of the Armed Forces of the Philippines to protect and serve all communities, regardless of religions, ethnicity and political beliefs.

“Even then, we are for the peaceful resolution of the Mindanao Moro issue. Soldiers bleed and even die in armed conflicts. For us, use of force in addressing a security problem is always a last option,” said Sobejana.

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