MANILA— Youth voters likely to reject a new Bangsamoro law are gaining momentum in two key cities in southern Philippines, a new survey showed, with more non-Muslims questioning whether they would benefit from it.
A survey of 328 youth respondents from the present Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) indicated 70-percent support for the Bangsamoro Organic Law (BOL).
But there were more youth voters from Cotabato City and Isabela City, Basilan now saying they were not in favor of the new law, according to the survey by the peace advocacy group International Alert Philippines.
Both cities previously voted against joining an expanded ARMM in 2001, and are now the subject of an intense campaign to convince them to be part of a bigger Bangsamoro autonomous region.
“What seems to be the case, mayroong momentum ‘yung ‘no’ vote ngayon sa Cotabato City saka sa Isabela City (the ‘no’ votes have momentum now in Cotabato City and Isabela City),” said senior adviser Francisco Lara Jr., whose group conducted the survey a week before the Jan. 21 plebiscite.
Youth support for the BOL in Cotabato City was down from 56.9 percent in a late 2018 survey to 44 percent in the latest findings.
Those saying they would reject the new law, which seeks to establish an autonomous Bangsamoro entity, increased from 13 percent to 32 percent.
Part of the reason, according to the survey, was the increase in the number of non-Muslims in Cotabato City, who said they would cast their vote in the plebiscite.
Cotabato City Mayor Cynthia Guiani has said residents were in favor of the BOL, but not of joining the new autonomous region that would be created.
In Isabela City, youth respondents saying they would vote to ratify the BOL went down from 58.5 percent in 2018 to 33 percent in the latest survey.
Respondents who were likely to reject the new law went up to 35 percent from 8.8 percent in 2018.
“The most likely reason behind that is a fissure among the political families of Basilan because if the votes came from the Muslim bloc, then certainly that was shaped by clan decisions in Basilan,” Lara said.
Sulu remained an “outlier” with even more youth voters- 25.6 percent- now saying they would reject the BOL, an increase from 17.5 percent in the 2018 survey.
But Lara noted that the Sulu vote could be “suffocated” by the rest of the provinces and cities in the ARMM, which will vote as one geographical area.
Sulu Gov. Abdusakur Tan II’s petition before the Supreme Court questioned this manner of voting, insisting the province should be given the choice to opt out of the new autonomous region.
Should Sulu reject the BOL but the rest of the ARMM ratify it, Lara said this would firm up the Tan petition “that they’re going to be disenfranchised by this election because even if they win — the ‘no’ vote — they’re still going to be part“ of the new region.
The survey also showed “greater polarization among the youth on the potential benefits of non-muslims from the BOL.”
Terrorism also became the “most pressing issue” the BOL should address, according to 70 percent of the youth respondents.
Corruption, which was the top issue in the previous youth survey, came in second at 60 percent.
A bomb exploded in Cotabato City on New Year’s Eve, killing 2 people and wounding more than 30 others.