ARMM youth favor Bangsamoro Organic Law- International Alert Survey

Cotabato City- The International Alert survey reveals that majority of youth voters in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) are in favor of the Bangsamoro Organic Law (BOL).

The survey by the advocacy group found 89.4 percent of its 614 respondents aged 18-35 said they will vote yes in next year's plebiscite for the law that will establish a new autonomous Bangsamoro region, said a report by ABS-CBN on December 6.

Only 2.5 percent of the respondents said they will vote against the Bangsamoro law, while 8.1 percent said they were unsure, the survey, held from October 29 to November 19, showed. 

"This is significant considering that the youth comprises 57 percent of the ARMM voters," said the ABS-CBN report quoting Nikki de la Rosa, International Alert's manager for the Philippines saying. 

"Data seems to suggest that getting more youth to vote will add to the base of the support for the BOL," De La Rosa added, citing high familiarity with the Bangsamoro law among those in this young age group. 

According to the ABS-CBN report, the survey showed 83.5 percent of the respondents were familiar with the issues and impact of the Bangsamoro Organic Law, 15 percent were unfamiliar at all, while 1.5 percent didn't answer. 

The same ARMM areas will still be part of the new Bangsamoro region, while Cotabato City, Isabela City, 6 Lanao del Norte towns and 39 North Cotabato provinces may opt to be included, the report also said. 

The Organic Law for the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM) or R.A, No. 11054 was passed by congress in July, signed by President Rodrigo Duterte on August 6 promises fair sharing of resources, a block grant, special development fund, and an overall stronger autonomy in Muslim Mindanao.

Many youth voters in the island provinces of Basilan, Sulu, and Tawi-tawi, however, showed hesitation in supporting the Bangsamoro Organic Law, according to the survey. 

In Sulu, 17.5 percent of the respondents said they will not vote for the BOL, 57 percent said they were unsure, while only 10 percent said they will vote yes. 

In Tawi-Tawi, 43.5 percent of the youth were unsure of their stand on the BOL, 10.3 percent said they will vote against the law, while 46.2 percent said they will vote yes, the survey showed.

Meanwhile, 36.4 percent of the respondents in Basilan said they were unsure of the BOL, 22.7 percent said they will vote for it, while 40.9 percent said they will vote against it. 

"The reason behind that has always been the perception that the BOL is a law that was crafted by our brotherhood in the mainland," said Francisco "Pancho" Lara Jr., International Alert senior adviser. 

Lara added that this may be the reason behind why Sulu Governor Abdusakur Tan II filed a petition against the BOL before the Supreme Court.

Despite hesitation in these islands, 58.8 percent of respondents from Isabela City in Basilan said they are in favor of the BOL, 32.4 percent were unsure, while 8.8 percent were against it. 

The survey also showed that respondents want the BOL to address the issues of poverty, terrorism, corruption, rebellion, and crime.

But most of the respondents said they were not too hopeful that the BOL will address violent extremism, said Lara, as most of them backed the law for the job opportunities it may bring.

"They don't agree that this will remove violent extremism. They don't agree that this will remove corruption. The reason why they're supporting this is because it will create jobs," he said. 

"It is clear in the data that the youth are quite knowledgeable. They will vote according to their understanding of the BOL. They are managing their expectation as well," De La Rosa added.

De La Rosa said BOL advocates may have to focus next on promoting the benefits of the law to non-Muslims because most of them are not inclined to back the law, according to their survey. 

Lara said they will hold another survey in the first week of January 2019, 2 weeks before the plebiscite, to see whether or not the trend will remain the same. (Source: ABS-CBN News)