MANILA, Philippines — Twenty-eight barangays that are not under the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) have been included in the plebiscite to ratify the Bangsamoro Organic Law (BOL), the Commission on Elections (Comelec) said yesterday.
James Jimenez, spokesman for the Comelec, said from 20, eight more areas were approved by the poll body to be included in the plebiscite.
“The final number of areas covered by the BOL plebiscite is 28,” Jimenez said.
These areas are all in North Cotabato.
Covered by the BOL plebiscite are Barangays Libungan Torreta, Upper Pangankalan, Datu Mantil and Simsiman in Pigcawayan; Barangays Langogan, Pebpoloan, Kibayao, Kitulaan and Tupig in Carmen.
Others are Barangays Rajahmuda, Barungis, Gli-gli, Nalapaan, Panicupan, Nunguan, Manaulanan, Bulol, Bualan, Nabundas, PamaliAn and Fort Pikit in Pikit; Pedtad, Buluan, Simone and Tamped in Kabacan; Tumbras in Midsayap and Galidad in Tulunan.
A total of 103 areas under ARMM but are adjacent to the places covered by the BOL have filed petitions for inclusion in the plebiscite.
The Comelec had screened the petitions and found that only 28 met the requirements.
Jimenez said most of the petitions were denied because they do not have “contiguous border with existing” main territories covered by the plebiscite.
The Comelec will hold the first leg of the plebiscite in the ARMM territories on Jan. 21.
If this yields favorable results, the second leg will be conducted in the 28 barangays on Feb. 6.
Support for ratification
The leadership of the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) assured Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process Carlito Galvez Jr. of their commitment to the ratification of the BOL during a meeting on Tuesday.
Yusop Jikiri, who chairs the MNLF central committee, reiterated their support for President Duterte’s call to ratify the BOL.
Jikiri said the MNLF is “100 percent behind the President’s aspiration to bring peace and progress in Mindanao.”
Galvez lauded the MNLF for carrying out orderly campaign rallies across the proposed territories of the future Bangsamoro autonomous region.
“You have shown to our people your commitment on how we really wanted the BOL to push through and be ratified convincingly,” Galvez told members of the MNLF central committee.
He called on the MNLF to ensure that the conduct of the plebiscite would reflect the will of the people.
“The ratification of the BOL will bring peace, security, unity, reconciliation and progress not only in Mindanao but to the whole country,” he said.
The MNLF leadership vowed to mobilize their members and communities to actively campaign for the BOL to gain support for the upcoming plebiscite.
Last week, thousands joined the caravan for BOL launched by the MNLF in Cotabato City.
Commissioner Jose Lorena of the Bangsamoro Transition Commission noted the strong support of the MNLF in the political process.
“The Bangsamoro people should stand to become one. We need to hurdle the first obstacle, which is passing the BOL through this plebiscite,” Lorena said.
Japan backs peace process
The Japanese government affirmed its support for the peace process in Mindanao.
Japanese Ambassador Koji Haneda, who paid a courtesy call on Galvez on Thursday, committed his country’s continued support for the various peace process mechanisms and programs being implemented by the Japan International Cooperation Agency in Mindanao.
Galvez thanked Japan for being an active partner for peace and development.
“The level of investments in our country demonstrates the unwavering commitment of Japan to help us attain peace,” he said.
Japan has provided $5.98 billion in official development assistance to the Philippines as of third quarter of 2018, making it the country’s biggest donor, according to the National Economic and Development Authority.
Bomb plots meant to disrupt BOL?
Meanwhile, two groups of local militants linked to the Islamic State were allegedly behind the foiled bomb attacks supposedly to disrupt the scheduled BOL plebiscite in Mindanao, the military said yesterday.
Maj. Gen. Cirilito Sobejana, commander of the Army’s 6th Division, tagged the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighter (BIFF) and Dawlah Islamiyah (DI) of Abu Turaife group in the recent Cotabato mall bombing and attempts to slip improvised explosive devices in urban areas in Mindanao.
Sobejana said members of the BIFF and DI allegedly burned heavy equipment of a construction firm in Sultan Kudarat.
“These groups are peace spoilers and we believed the bomb plots were part of terror threats to sabotage the plebiscite,” he said. – With Roel Pareño, Jose Rodel Clapano