CAGAYAN DE ORO CITY, Philippines – Vote “yes” to pave the way for peace and development in the Bangsamoro region. Or face continued violence.
This was the message of controversial Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) commander Abdullah Macapaar, better known as Commander Bravo, in a video that his group posted on Facebook on Thursday, January 31, five days before the scheduled second Bangsamoro plebiscite in 6 towns of Lanao del Norte and 67 barangays (villages) in North Cotabato. (READ: Now that the BOL is ratified, what’s next?)
Bravo commands the MILF’s Northwestern Mindanao Front in Lanao del Norte, which is campaigning hard for the inclusion of 6 towns in the soon-to-be-formed Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM).
He is up against the Dimaporo clan, which has ruled the province for at least 4 decades and which is against any of Lanao del Norte’s town inclusion in BARMM.
Last January, the government brokered a dialogue between Bravo and the Dimaporos to ensure a peaceful plebiscite in Lanao del Norte. It was under the Arroyo government, after all, when Bravo led attacks against communities after peace negotiations bogged down during that period.
“I ask that we unite for peace and development by voting yes to the inclusion of the 6 towns of Lanao del Norte in the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM),” Bravo said in Filipino.
The commander of the MILF’s Northwestern Mindanao Front said the creation of a new and expanded Bangsamoro region will ensure a better future for “our children and Lanao del Norte.”
Bravo appealed to voters to “not give us a reason to continue our armed struggle or remain resentful towards you.”
“We don’t want trouble,” Bravo said. “Voting yes means that you want peace and you give us an opportunity to live in peace. And we will take this as a debt of honor,” Bravo said.
“Voting no will be a violation of our right to live in peace,” he stressed, noting that this is what the government and MILF want to avoid. A “no” vote “will only cause violence in Lanao del Norte,” Bravo said.
The February 6 plebiscite will be the second to be held for the ratification of the Bangsamoro Organic Law and the creation of BARMM.
This is the culmination of the peace process began by the previous Aquino administration and the MILF aimed at granting genuine self-rule for Moros and ending decades of conflict in Muslim Mindanao.
The first plebiscite held on January 21 in resulted in a big “yes” win for the BOL in the existing Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao as well as Cotabato City.
Leaders of the MILF and the Moro National Liberation Front who attended a forum in this city on Friday, February 1, appealed for a free and credible second plebiscite.
They asked the military and the police to ensure the peace, and for President Rodrigo Duterte to call on politicians to support the BOL.
“We decry the incitement of disdain among Christians towards Muslims and lslam perpetrated by these forces whose political interests go against… Moro empowerment,” their joint statement said.
“We decry the massive misinformation and disinformation perpetrated by these forces whose political fortunes are dependent on making the Moros in Lanao del Norte subservient to their self-centered aims,” the statement added. – Rappler.com
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