MANILA, Philippines – The Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process (OPAPP) is set to launch a "massive and intense" information campaign in a bid to change public sentiment over the proposed Bangsamoro Basic Law.
The announcement comes a day after Pulse Asia released a survey revealing that 4 in 10 Filipinos oppose the passage of the bill, which seeks to create a new autonomous region in Muslim Mindanao with greater political and fiscal powers.
The primary target of the campaign will be the 36% of Filipinos who remain undecided about the measure, OPAPP said in a statement.
"It means that many have not made up their minds and would benefit from an intensified information, education, and communications program on the BBL," Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process Secretary Teresita Deles said.
Deles said they also hope to change the minds of the 44% who rejected the bill. The statement did not identify how the information and education campaign will be conducted.
The survey found that 62% of Mindanao residents opposed the passage of the bill – the highest among all regions. Under the current proposal, the BBL would have to be ratified by residents in the core of the Bangsamoro before the new autonomous government can be formed.
A product of the peace accord between the government and rebel group Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), the BBL seeks to entrench a possibly expanded autonomous government that is parliamentary in form, replacing the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao.
But the chances of passing the law became dim in the aftermath of the political fallout that resulted from the bloodbath in Mamasapano, Maguindanao – a known MILF bailiwick – on January 25.
The police operation to arrest wanted terrorists Zulkifli bin Hir (Marwan) and Abdul Basit Usman came at the expense of the lives of 44 elite cops, 18 Moro rebels, and 5 civilians. (READ: Mamamasapano: Time on target)
After simultaneous investigations on the incident, questions over why President Benigno Aquino III allowed then suspended police chief Alan Purisima to be involved in the planning and operation have persisted. It has also caused lawmakers to question the sincerity of the MILF in the peace process. (READ: 'First sin' belongs to MILF – Senate report)
But Deles remained hopeful they can turn the tide around.
Deles noted that the population of the proposed Bangsamoro region only comprises 18% of the 17.8 million population of Mindanao.
"I think that fear borne out of misinformation has something to do with it. Even before the Mamasapano incident, there were already rumors being spread around of prohibitions against certain practices of Christians, etc, that will be imposed, or that the take-over by the MILF of local government rule once the Bangsamoro is established. These are falsehoods that our people are working hard to correct."
The Pulse Asia survey found that 88% of Filipinos are aware of the proposed law. The survey was conducted on March 1 to 7, a month after the Mamasapano clash.
Even before the Mamasapano clash, the ad hoc committee on Bangsamoro in the House of Representatives conducted over 40 consultations in Mindanao, as well as select areas in Luzon and the Visayas.