Too early to say!

The campaign to make yes votes prevail over the no votes has not even started officially; it is the Commission on Elections (COMELEC) which has the authority to determine that. But this early, many people, most likely out of their emotional or obsessed desire to have the Bangsamoro Organic Law (BOL) gets ratified during the plebiscite, got irked or irritated or dismayed when some politicians said “they are supporting the no votes during the plebiscite.”

Of course, we cannot fault them for such outbursts; to us, they are only showing what is natural and right. They consider the BOL as a thing like a launching pad that can deliver them from Hell to something like an interregnum, which certainly is much better than hellish fire. We are referring to the historical injustices committed against the Bangsamoro people that left them almost extinct in their own homeland, or, to say the least, forced to survive in the lands of the lions, snakes, and crocodiles.

The conduct of the plebiscite is still far away, say four months to get things in order and better. It is too early to say what will happen then. The pendulum is in the midst of swinging.

Politicians are pragmatic people. There are exceptions, of course; those who are patriotic, nationalist, or ideologue. But many if not most can swing either way, depending on where the mood of the people, nay electorates, is situated. Always the sounding board is how people view a given situation or issue – and politicians will most likely adjust accordingly.

To us, it is not this early mood that matters. The real challenge is how to bring the message of peace through the BOL understood, internalized, and accepted. Without ratification of the BOL, it means there is no law; and no law means, we are back to square one, which is the status quo: No decommissioning of MILF weapons and combatants. MILF (and MNLF especially the Jikiri wing) will continue to assert that government must comply with all agreements it signed with them.

Moreover, we will lose all the opportunities that the BOL has offered: good governance, more jobs, access to bigger funds, less politics, more dialogues, including inter-faith dialogues that can lead to harmony, and greater prospects of investors coming in.

Be this as it may, the BOL is an apolitical issue. It is beyond base politics considerations. It is about solving the Bangsamoro Problem, which has been the sole agenda of the MILF and government in their more than 17 years of hard, harsh, and protected negotiations.

A case in point is the 17th Congress itself. The Senate and House of Representatives passed it with all the political parties, except few legislators, supporting it. No one questioned it as favouring the PDP-Laban Party, the party of President Rodrigo Roa Duterte.

We firmly believe that all the local government executives in the proposed territorial jurisdiction of the Bangsamoro Government will support the ratification of the BOL. It may not happen now but in a not distant future. There will be mutual reaching out. The provincial executives of Lanao Del Sur and mayors already expressed their collective decision to support the BOL. Very soon, the government officials of Tawi-Tawi will do the same. And hopefully Basilan.

Seriously speaking, the government and MILF had no intentions or ulterior motive of passing it into law at the expense or advantage of any politician. FAR FROM IT – and it has never been in our mind. In fact, the MILF had reiterated its “Hands Off” policy, in the form of formal Resolution, from participating in the forthcoming May 2019 midterm elections. This is to showcase and dramatize its sincerity that to this day the MILF is still a revolutionary organization.

Maybe only in the future, being part of agreement and the consequence of passing the BOL, the MILF through the United Bangsamoro Justice Party (UBJP) will take part in the electoral exercise, say in 2022, after the transition of three years. This is so, because the MILF struggle is already electoral. But this participation will be in the parliamentary elections, BUT NOT IN PROVINCES, CITIES, AND MUNIPALITIES.