BOL supporters say law to bring peace, stability, fiscal independence to region

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, January 17) — Supporters of the proposed Bangsamoro Organic Law (BOL) on Thursday urged people to vote for its ratification, saying the measure that creates a new Bangsamoro autonomous region could finally secure the peace and prosperity that have eluded Mindanao for decades.

A local official opposed to the BOL, however, questioned the credibility of its proponents, and whether the autonomous region it will create can really bring progress to her city.

Speaking to CNN Philippines' On the Record, Marawi civic leader Samira Gutoc and Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) Assemblyman Zia Alonto Adiong said the ratification of the BOL would bring about much needed changes in the region.

Gutoc said the BOL could put an end to the region's long-running armed conflict and would mean those involved in the fighting would be able to return to normal life.

"As a woman, as a mother importante po yung stopping the armed conflict, malaking bagay po yung ceasefire [a ceasefire would be a big thing]," she said, adding that women, the youth and indigenous groups will be politically represented in the new autonomous region.


Adiong, meanwhile, said the BOL is "not just a piece of legislation."

"It would substantially decrease the tension on the ground, having the MILF (Moro Islamic Liberation Front) not as rebels, not as an organization that fights against the government, but even a partner of the government," he said.

Having the Bangsamoro setup, Adiong said, would bring a feeling of security to the people as rebels who used to fight the government would now work alongside it. It would also mean fiscal autonomy and needed economic development, he added.

"Bangsamoro is not only to open up peace and security in the area that would actually create an atmosphere conducive to economic growth, but it is actually an apparatus to maintain peace and stability in the area," he said.

Gutoc said under the BOL, the MILF has committed in the agreement they signed with government to set up a policing fund, disband private armed groups and take part in monitoring them.

"So you're going to have to, as an MILF, commit to this — what you signed with the government," she added.


'How credible are the proponents?'

Meanwhile, Cotabato City Mayor Cynthia Guiani-Sayadi is not convinced the BOL will bring about the changes touted by its champions.

Also speaking to On the Record Thursday, she said she was against her city's inclusion in the proposed Bangsamoro region.

"Yung decision ko specifically to support the no for inclusion of Cotabato City, hindi ko sariling desisyon ito. I consulted practically all the stakeholders of Cotabato City," Guiani-Sayadi told senior correspondent Ruth Cabal.

[Translation: My decision to specifically support the no for Cotabato City's inclusion, I did not come up with it by myself. consulted practically all the stakeholders of Cotabato City.]


She added her decision to go "all out" for a no vote was representative of the people's will.

Guiani-Sayadi said there have been threats from MILF leaders who said there would be bloodshed if they voted against the BOL.

"They are actually regarding this BOL as, kung Muslim ka, you are mandated to support the BOL because if not, you will be considered as a munafiq," she said. Munafiq is a term in Islam which refers to a religious hypocrite.

"BOL is just a creation of Congress. So, nagkakaroon siya ng parang misinterpretation doon sa baba, doon sa mga tao. And this is something has to be explained to the people dahil nga nagiging simula, o nagiging cause ng hindi pagkakaunawaan," she said.

[Translation: BOL is just a creation of Congress. So people can misinterpret it. And this is something that has to be explained to the people because it can spark or can cause conflict.]

She said "How credible yung bang mga proponents or yung mga sumusuporta do'n in bringing about peace, progress, and prosperity to Cotabato City? That is actually the question here. If they cannot even control their people — yung mga tao na nanghaharas ng mga Cotabateño — how can you say that you can bring about peace?"

[Translation: How credible are the proponents or supporters in bringing about peace, progress and prosperity to Cotabato City? That is actually the question here. If they cannot even control their people — the people who are harassing the Cotabateño — how can you say that you can bring about peace?]


Gutoc said a process has to be undergone before changes take place.

Adiong said, "It's the commitment of this government not only to the Bangsamoro people, but it is a commitment of this government to the international community... We lose the respect, our standing in the international community if we cannot even act on the promises we gave to the people."

Guiani-Sayadi is urging voters in Cotabato City to participate in the plebiscite.

"I call on all Cotabateños to come out, vote on January 21. Exercise your right. Tell the people, show the world that this is our place and no one can dictate to us what will happen to Cotabato City," she said.

Gutoc also urged people to vote, adding she wants to make sure no voters were disenfranchised.

"Importante sa akin kung ano ang isusulat. Marami pong hindi literado, hindi sila marunong magsulat. Kailangan pong assisted sila," Gutoc said.

Adiong said results could be announced "within a week."

"If in the January 21 plebiscite the vote is overwhelmingly yes, it will proceed to February 6. If no, then they will stick to the status quo," he added.

On Jan. 21, areas under ARMM, along with Cotabato City and Isabela City, will be voting for or against the Bangsamoro Organic Law (BOL) and whether or not they would allow themselves to be included into the new Bangsamoro ARMM (BARMM) that would replace the present ARMM. A second plebiscite for Lanao del Norte excluding Iligan City, North Cotabato and the 28 areas which petitioned for inclusion into the BARMM would be held on February 6.

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