Sulu's 'no' vote in Bangsamoro plebiscite 'symbolic', but has 'no effect': analyst

ABS-CBN News

Posted at Jan 23 2019 08:21 PM

MANILA - Sulu's rejection of the Bangsamoro Organic Law (BOL) is "symbolic" but would have "no effect" as provinces of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) voted as a geographic bloc, an analyst said Wednesday.

Some 163,500 voted against the BOL, while 137,630 supported the measure, the certificate of canvass from Sulu showed.

"Legally, there is no effect... Even if Sulu voted no, it would still be included because it is already a part of the ARMM," Benedicto Bacani, executive director of the Institute for Autonomy and Governance, told ANC's News Now.

"The 'no' vote is a symbol of the rejection of the majority of the voters of Sulu that they want out," he said.

But another analyst said Sulu's "no" vote was "not a rejection of the new autonomy" but a reflection of the influence of the province's leaders.

"What it does show is that the governor of the province has tremendous influence over his province," Amina Rasul Bernardo, president of the Philippine Center for Islam and Democracy, said in a separate interview.

"Do you really think that citizens, that the voting population would take the time to read the Bangsamoro Organic Law?" she said, underscoring that "70 percent of voters" in Sulu are considered "illiterate." 

"They rely on their political leaders and if political leaders have a campaign that says the Bangsamoro is against the Tausug without saying why, it can be an influence," she said.

Sulu Governor Abdusakur Tan II was not supportive of the BOL, a measure that would grant the new autonomous region more funding and bigger share from national revenues.

Under the law, the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), the country's largest Muslim rebel group, would be in charge of running the new Bangsamoro region during a 3-year transition period.

"The case of Sulu is not just about resisting the leadership of the MILF because at the end of the day, there is gonna be elections. If the MILF doesn't perform, then they will just be out of power," Bacani said.

"It's deeper than that. Sulu's issue is really identity," he said.