Need to ratify BOL

The ratification of the Bangsamoro Organic Law (BOL) during the plebiscite called for the purpose, which is most likely in January 2019, will be the final act to make it into a law. From now on, supporters of the BOL are leaving no stone unturned to ensure that the yes votes prevail over the no votes and it is ratified. Similarly, those who are opposing it are also mounting last ditch efforts to negate its ratification.

But on the basis of early signs, the BOL is enjoying almost unanimous approval from the people. At least, three instances can be cited namely: 1) on July 29 more than 100,000 officers, men,  and supporters of MILF gathered in Darapanan, Sultan Kudarat, Maguindanao, and when they were asked whether they will vote yes during the plebiscite, all of them said yes and they raised their hands approvingly; 2) on August 4 at the Notre Dame University Gymnasium in Cotabato City during a forum on BOL, out of the more than 1,000 participants only 2 to 3 said they would vote no during the plebiscite. This is understandable because the audience came from various sectors of society; and 3) on August 8 during the turnover of the BOL by the government and MILF peace implementing panels to the public and multi-stakeholders at ORG, ARMM Compound, Cotabato City, virtually all those present yelled yes to the BOL.

But the spoilers, borrowing the words of Senator Miguel Zubiri, who is concededly the number one champion of BOL (of course, there are sevral other champions), are not yet down. They just laid low but they they are doing all the dirty tricks from registering flying voters from nearby provinces to coercing Comelec workers to give way to their henchmen and supporters to register first.

Seriously, we do not know of any valid or altruistic reason why the BOL is not to be supported. We do not know the logic of those opposing it, except surely personal reasons or interests. A change in the status quo in the political landscape would surely give more freedom to electorates to choose a better leader.

The BOL is not a perfect law, but it is 85% good. This is what we got after all of us struggled to get a better law. We have to accept it, without prejudice to more assertion that government must comply with all the provisions of the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro (CAB).

When we count the blessings in the BOL, there are so many and outstanding. Aside from the powers and resources committed to the Bangsamoro Government, which are not given to the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM), the BOL is designed to effect or give peace, justice, and progress to the peoples of the region. It is a menu for good neighbourliness, provides better opportunity for business, and promtes community and inter-faith dialogues on the basis of philosophy: “Live and let live”. Moreover, it modestly addresses the historic injustices committed against the Bangsamoro people, the singular reason why there is long running armed conflict in Mindanao.

Do we want to perpetuate the war in Mindanao if all reject the BOL during the plebiscite?  Do we want chaos to reign in our midst? In particular, do we want the MILF – the main partner of government in peace – to become irrelevant and helpless in working for a violent-free or less Mindanao?

We just want to be straight-forward. If all the peoples reject the BOL especially in the core areas such as the five provinces in the ARMM including Marawi City, as well as Cotabato City, and Isabela City. What are the necessary implications or consequences?

First, both the government and MILF will lose face, the latter in particular. The government will also be accused of not delivering the law to the peoples of Bangsamoro.  MILF’s critics – not to mention, the extremists and “terrorists” – will feast on our failure. Worse, their narratives will be more credible. Second, the decommissioning of MILF weapons and combatants, which is directly linked to various milestones in the peace process, will not take place. And third, we don’t think both parties have the mood and appetite to go all over again, say 20 years of another negotiation amidst hard conflict. Surely, new situation breeds new players.

Be this as it may, we have high regard to the power and wisdom of our people. God willing! They will ratify the BOL resoundingly comes January!