Bangsamoro law seen ratified, ARMM expansion hangs: analysts

ABS-CBN News

Posted at Jan 21 2019 12:04 PM

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MANILA - The Bangsamoro Organic Law will likely be ratified in a plebiscite that started Monday but the expansion of the autonomous Muslim region may not be concluded yet, analysts said Monday.

Some 2.8 million Filipinos are registered to vote in the plebiscite to approve the BOL, the enabling law of a 5-year-old peace agreement between Manila and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front.

"The Bangsamoro vote is coasting along a massive victory, except for 3 areas where the fight between yes and no are too close to call—Sulu, Isabela City, and Cotabato City. The youth is going to vote overwhelmingly for the measure, except for those areas," said Francisco Lara, senior adviser at the International Alert Philippines.

Eliseo Mercado Jr., a priest and consultant of the Cotabato-based Institute for Autonomy and Governance, said the current Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao, which consists of Basilan (except Isabela City), Lanao del Sur, Maguindanao, Sulu, and Tawi-Tawi, will vote as one unit to ratify the BOL.

"Cotabato would like to know whether the new arrangement would be for the benefit of the city...Nauwi sa very partisan, divisive discussion na exclusion and inclusion (It has turned into a very partisan, divisive discussion on exclusion and inclusion)," he told ANC's Early Edition.

Lara, whose group surveyed 328 youth respondents in the ARMM, said there was "a significant plurality in support" of the Bangsamoro Law in Isabela City in December, but no-voters almost doubled in numbers by January. He suspects this could be the result of "clan dynamics."

Sulu appears to be an "outlier" after officials there questioned the constitutionality of the BOL before the Supreme Court.

"If the no-votes succeeds in Sulu, that will strengthen their case against the nature of the geographic block voting in this kind of plebiscite," he said.

War-torn Marawi City will likely also vote in favor of the ratification of the law, which will grant the new autonomous region a block grant and stronger fiscal powers, said ARMM assemblyman Zia Alonto Adiong.

"The decision-making is now being made closer to the people and the parliament can allocate the funding because of the fiscal autonomy that is granted in the provision," he said.