MANILA, Philippines - As more peace advocates are expected to campaign for the newly signed Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro (CAB), the government is confident that the five provinces of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) will stick it out with the envisioned Bangsamoro region.
“I think we can be confident about the results of the plebiscite… What we expect is more and more will campaign in its favor,” Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process Teresita Deles said yesterday.
She noted that as envisioned in the CAB, a ministerial form of Bangsamoro government would replace the ARMM after the Bangsamoro Basic Law is approved by Congress and ratified in a plebiscite.
However, Deles said the Bangsamoro constituents should also not blindly vote to ratify its basic law.
“When they ask questions or clarifications, we should grant it to them. That is their right and it is our obligation to answer to the best of our ability. To those who have already decided because there is enough basis for a decision, the call is do not just prepare your own vote but to help sell this to others,” she said.
“By and large, what we have seen in the consultations is a real interest, a real desire to have the best for the Bangsamoro,” she added.
She said the Mindanao Civil Society Organization Platform for Peace, an umbrella of at least 120 groups and networks in Mindanao, is among those that expressed its support for the passage of the basic law.
Ghadzali Jaafar, Moro islamic Liberation Front (MILF) vice chairman for political affairs, is also confident that the Bangsamoro Basic Law would be ratified during the plebiscite, citing the general pulse of the Bangsamoro people.
The plebiscite for the envisioned Bangsamoro region will cover the existing geographical area of the ARMM; six municipalities of Baloi, Munai, Pantar, Nunungan, Tagaloan and Tangkal in Lanao del Norte; 39 villages in North Cotabato, and the cities of Cotabato and Isabela.
This early, the Commission on Elections (Comelec) is preparing for the plebiscite for the Bangsamoro political entity next year.
Comelec spokesman James Jimenez said a sub-committee on the Bangsamoro plebiscite has been created and it would be chaired by Commissioner Al Parreño and co-chaired by Commissioner Luie Guia.
He said the Comelec also created a special task force to oversee, supervise and control the preparations for the conduct of the plebiscite.
Malacañang earlier asked the Comelec to start preparing for the plebiscite, which shall determine the scope of the Bangsamoro political entity.
Comelec Chairman Sixto Brillantes Jr. earlier said he does not foresee any problem if the plebiscite is held in 2015 or only a year before the 2016 general elections.
“Holding plebiscites is easy. There are almost no preparations involved there… Definitely, it will not affect our preparations for 2016,” he said.
No defections – Jaafar
Meanwhile, Jaafar branded as “incorrect” and mere propaganda reports that around 4,000 MILF fighters have joined the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF).
“No one from the MILF at this moment,” he said, in reaction to the claim of Ustadz Pendie Colano, MNLF commander in Central Mindanao.
Colano said at least four commanders of the MILF, each with 1,000 combatants, have joined forces with the MNLF because they do not want to lay down their arms as part of the annex on normalization under the CAB.
Jaafar said they are also continuously engaging with leaders on the ground to update them on the peace process.
He also appealed to the MNLF leadership to just rally behind the MILF and support the CAB to achieve peace in Mindanao.
In a speech during the celebration of Araw ng Kagitingan at Mt. Samat in Bataan yesterday, Japanese Ambassador to the Philippines Toshinao Urabe reiterated his country’s support for Mindanao after the signing of the CAB.
“We are proud of and are committed to continue our contribution to peace building in Mindanao,” he said.
In his speech during the signing of the CAB, President Aquino acknowledged the support of the international community in its goal to bring peace and progress in Mindanao.
He cited Japan, which had been a member of the International Monitoring Team, International Contact Group, Independent Commission on Policing, the Japan-Bangsamoro Initiatives for Reconstruction and Development and the Japan International Cooperation Agency for their assistance to Mindanao development. – With Aurea Calica, Roel Pareño, Mayen Jaymalin, Edith Regalado