Sulu rejects Bangsamoro law

Sofia Tomacruz

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Sulu rejects Bangsamoro law
Sulu is so far the only ARMM territory to have voted against the ratification of the Bangsamoro Organic Law, but this has no impact on the region for now

MANILA, Philippines – Despite already being a part of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM), Sulu has voted not to ratify the Bangsamoro Organic Law (BOL).

But the province will still be part of the new Bangsamoro region.

According to unofficial results from the province’s board of canvassers, the tally on Tuesday, January 22, showed that the votes opposing the creation of a larger, more powerful Muslim region defeated the number of votes in favor of it. (READ: Results: Bangsamoro Plebiscite 2019)

The results are as follows:

  • “Yes” to ratification: 137,630
  • “No” to ratification: 163,526

The number of “no” votes were 25,896 higher than the “yes” votes. Voter turnout was at 80%.

Because Sulu is already part of ARMM, its voters were asked only if they wanted to ratify the BOL, not if they wanted to join the future Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARRM).

The BOL already includes ARMM as members of the new region.

Also, Sulu’s rejection of the law won’t matter now because the other ARMM provinces – Maguindanao, Lanao del Sur, Basilan, Tawi-Tawi –  ratified it during the January 21 plebiscite, based an unofficial results.

Sore point for Tan

The organic law said that ARMM votes are counted as one geographical region, and that if majority of ARMM ratified the BOL, then the law prevails.

This is one of the issues raised by Sulu Governor Abdusakur “Toto” Tan II in his petition before the Supreme Court in October 2018 that questioned the constitutionality of the law. (READ: 6 scenarios for the Bangsamoro vote

Tan had argued that votes in ARMM should not be counted as one geographical area.

He also protested the lack of an opt-out provision for any ARMM province, insisting that Sulu’s votes should not be lumped with the rest.

Rival group

Sulu had been a hot spot before and during the plebiscite because of the Tan family’s fierce opposition to the law and their political influence in the entire province.

The province is also the birthplace and bailiwick of the MILF’s rival organization, the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF), which signed a peace deal with the Ramos government in 1996.

That agreement paved the way for the election of MNLF chairman Nur Misuari as ARMM governor.

The results from Sulu are not yet official. They still need to be canvassed by the National Board of Canvassers headed by Commission on Elections chief Sheriff Abas, in Manila. –

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Sofia Tomacruz

Sofia Tomacruz covers defense and foreign affairs. Follow her on Twitter via @sofiatomacruz.