Peaceful BOL plebiscite

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The New Year’s Eve bombing in Cotobato City was a “peace spoiler” but the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) yesterday committed to a peaceful ratification of the Bangsamoro Organic Law (BOL) and vowed to honor whatever is the result of the polls.

Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana relayed the MILF commitment as the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) reaches its height of preparations to ensure the orderly and smooth holding of the 21 January plebiscite in areas under the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) and the cities of Isabela and Cotabato City, where a recent blast had killed two and injured a score of others.

“The MILF leadership pledged to have a peaceful plebiscite and will honor the result,” Lorenzana said.

The MILF is pushing for the ratification of BOL — a result of its decades-long peace negotiations with government which was signed into law by President Duterte last year. Once ratified, it will allow Bangsamoro more autonomy.

Lorenzana stressed that only members of the AFP and the Philippine National Police (PNP) will carry firearms upon approval of the Commission on Elections (Comelec).

Government security forces are on alert against the so-called “peace spoilers” who want to disrupt peace in Mindanao.

Cotabato City Mayor Cynthia Guiani-Sayadi claimed that an MILF commander had issued a threat prior to the explosion in a Cotobato City shopping mall. Cotabato City is said to be against the BOL.

“The AFP and the PNP commanders are closely coordinating. It will be determined by them if there is need for additional troops. We are all upbeat that the plebiscite will be conducted peacefully and that the people will be able to vote according their choice,” Lorenzana said.

Meanwhile, AFP Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Benjamin Madrigal assured the people that the military and police will do their best in ensuring a peaceful and orderly plebiscite.

“We just want to check on the apprehension of the constituents. The Armed Forces and the PNP want to assure our people that we are doing everything to ensure that we are able to conduct the plebiscite peacefully and orderly,” Madrigal said.

Malacañang, meanwhile, maintained it is leaving the BOL’s fate at the hands of the people.
Presidential spokesman Salvador Panelo said the Executive Branch will “respect the sovereign voice.”

“Of course, the Palace is pushing for the ratification. However, as always, the people will have to decide on that. In those areas affected, the decision is up to them. We will have to respect the sovereign voice,” he said.

Panelo also stated they would let the Supreme Court (SC) decide on the constitutionality BOL following a petition by Philippine Constitution Association (Philconsa) slamming the creation of two autonomous regions in Mindanao.

“We’d rather not say anything about it because it’s sub judice. We’ll let the Supreme Court decide,” the spokesman reiterated.

In its petition before the SC, Philconsa argued that the BOL violates Sections 18 and 19 of Article 10 of the 1987 Constitution which allows the enactment of only one organic act for Muslim Mindanao.

Under the BOL, the same ARMM provinces will still comprise the new region while Cotabato City, Isabela City, six Lanao del Norte towns and 39 North Cotabato provinces may opt to be included.

Solicitor General Jose Calida has already filed a counter move asking the SC to junk Philconsa’s petition.

With Kristina Maralit

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