[OPINION] Yes or No: BOL plebiscite
Going into the plebiscite, there is an imperative need to answer the why behind the Bangsamoro Organic Law (BOL). It’s easy to understand what that raison d’ etre is. We often hear or read that it’s the new law that repeals Republic Act 9054, the law governing the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM).
So how did BOL come about? It was originally drafted by a body called the Bangsamoro Transition Commission (BTC) and, eventually, submitted to both houses of Congress. The BOL can be considered as part of the legal interpretation of the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro (CAB), which is the peace agreement between the Government of the Philippines and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF).
Ideally, this should be enough to garner support. However this isn’t the case. Different sectors, Moro and non-Moro alike, still find it difficult to jump on the bandwagon of peace.
For the non-Moros, I believe that, once and for all, they should finally acknowledge that injustices were committed against the Moros since the Philippines’ inception. Had history taken a different turn, Mindanao and the Sulu archipelago would have been a sovereign state of its own.
Throughout the Philippines’ history as a nation, Moros endured injustices such as discrimination, land-grabbing, and massacres. These injustices were real, and factual records of them exist. As someone who ascribes himself to the Bangsamoro identity, it is touching to hear Christian leaders like Cardinal Orlando Quevedo acknowledging these injustices.
We all have to level off with understanding so we can move forward peacefully.
For the people of the Bangsamoro, the BOL is testament to our people’s assertion of our rights as humans. Even during the colonial times, our forefathers spilt the same blood on the same soil and they did not bother to distinguish their blood as Tausug, Iranun, Maguindaon, or Meranaw.
Their struggle as Moros was a collective effort. That is why, on February 1, 1924, a petition by more than 100 sultans and datus from Mindanao and Sulu declared that their territories should be independent from the Philippines, stating that they would be known to the world as the Moro Nation.
For too long, the concept of divide and conquer worked against us. We cannot fall prey to its talons once again.
Bigger than any political interest
There is also the issue that the BOL is questionable because it is being promoted by the MILF. I have always said that people should look at the BOL as something bigger than the MILF. While the MILF was primarily responsible for the BOL’s fruition, the intent, scope, and effect of the law is much wider than the interests of the MILF as a political body.
Questions have been raised over the MILF’s capacity to lead and govern.
To raise these questions is normal, but I believe that to make it the main criteria in voting yes or no to the BOL is simply unfair. We have to look objectively at the merits of the law first, and compare it to what we have right now, which is RA 9054.
While both laws are imperfect, the BOL provides better opportunities for a meaningful and progressive autonomy and that should be enough for a yes. The clear delineation of powers with added taxation power to make the Bangsamoro self-sufficient and less reliant on the national government is already a huge improvement over the ARMM and ARMM’s limitations.
Some may still argue that the BOL is good on paper, reasoning that the effectiveness of its implementation will depend on the leaders implementing it. There is truth to that line of reasoning and, at this time, I believe that all we can do is participate in nation-building and watch how the MILF play its role for the next 3 years. Again, it was the MILF who took up and continued the Moro struggle for self-determination while most of us were studying or working in urbanized cities.
I hope that everyone, at least those living in the Bangsamoro communities, participate in the BOL plebiscite and do their part in nation-building – both for the Bangsamoro and for the Philippines, of which we are all citizens.
The support of the BOL now, especially coming from political candidates, should not end with the final vote count of the mid-term elections.
The success of the Bangsamoro is our success as a nation. We should all remember that parts of the peace agreement, like the Normalization Phase, are anchored on the political track of the BOL. Part of this Normalization is phasing out the MILF’s weapons and combatants, the transformation of its camps into civilian communities, and the dismantling of other private armed groups – to name a few, and these all contribute to the trust-building that is vital to creating a lasting peace in Mindanao and across the Philippine archipelago we all call home.
We have to keep this in mind come January 21 and February 6: a "yes" vote translates to correcting the mistakes of the past and opening our doors to sustainable peace and development. A "no" vote, while not strictly translating to war, will result in denying justice and maintaining the volatile and violent status quo that has kept us from peace for so many decades. – Rappler.com
Ameen Andrew Alonto was formerly part of the Bangsamoro Transition Commission communications group. In recent years, he has travelled across Mindanao for consultations on the peace process. He is a member of the Young Moro Professionals Network and co-founded We Are Marawi during the Marawi Siege. Currently, he is a writer in the ARMM’s Regional Legislative Assembly