Bangsamoro plebiscite a 'golden opportunity to decide what is good for us'

MARAWI CITY, Philippines – Once a new autonomous region is created, future generations of Filipino Muslims will have no more reason to take up arms, Jannati Mimbantas told Rappler 3 days ahead of the historic Bangsamoro plebescite.

"There is no reason for us to trigger our arms because we now have the meaningful government," said Mimbantas, the Front Commander of the Northeastern Mindanao Front of the Bangsamoro Islamic Armed Forces (BIAF), armed wing of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF).

He added that brighter times await the Moros with the ratification of the new Bangsamoro government in sight. "It is now time for us to live peacefully, to have prosperity and development."

Sweet victory

Mimbantas has been part and witness to numerous wars between Moro separatist movements and the Philippine government in the past 4 decades. For him, the Bansamoro Organic Law (BOL) is the biggest achievement these movements have made since time immemorial.

"I am very happy because at least I spent my precious life to have this Bangsamoro Organic Law for the benefit of our people, for the benefit of our children and grandchildren, and from generation to generation," he said.

"I am ready to die as of now because we already have the Bangsamoro Organic Law," he added.  

'Last' chance

For now, Mimbantas only sees a future where the Bangsamoro region reaches fruition. (READ: What you need to know about the Bangsamoro plebiscite)

"I don't know if there is another BOL to be ratified. So this is our last and final decision maybe – this is our golden opportunity to decide what is good for us," he said.

Mimbantas also hopes the people of Cotabato City and Isabela City "will use their wise decision" in the crucial plebescite on Monday, January 21.  (READ: Key personalities who will make or break the Bangsamoro plebiscite)

The MILF leadership, he said, urged other armed groups to participate in the plebescite as well, emphasizing that the ratification of the BOL would not only be the victory of the MILF, but for all those in the region.

"This is ours, not the personal property of the MILF, not even the MNLF. This is for us, everyone – MILF, MNLF, Christian, Lumad, Muslim, and other armed groups," he said.

"After 40 years of our civilians supporting us...with the establishment of the Bangsamoro, it is time for us also, the MILF leadership, the MILF, to repay what they have supported to us," he said. 

Mimbantas promises the new MILF leadership will govern faithfully, and deliver nothing but good services to the the very people that helped them continue the fight for greater self-rule. "It is time for us to exert all our efforts to serve the people."  (Check out Rappler's full coverage of the plebiscite here.) – Rappler.com

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