Duterte to lead ‘peace assembly’ for Bangsamoro Organic Law

January 15, 2019
Rodrigo Duterte

PRESIDENT Rodrigo Duterte is set to fly to Cotabato City to join a “peace assembly” on Friday in support of the proposed Bangsamoro Organic Law (BOL).

According to a Malacañang advisory released yesterday, the mass action will be held just three days before the scheduled plebiscite for BOL in Bajau Hall, Cotabato City.

Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo also confirmed this to reporters during a press briefing in Malacañang.

The BOL plebiscite is set to take place on January 21 for voters within the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM), Isabela City in Basilan and Cotabato City. Meanwhile, those residing in Lanao del Norte, except Iligan City, and six North Cotabato municipalities will vote on February 6.

Once ratified, BOL will pave the way for the replacement of ARMM with Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao led by the Moro Islamic Liberation Front.

On Monday, Panelo said Duterte is a “powerful influence” on the ratification of the BOL.

“The voice of the President is always a powerful influence on whatever matter he gives his voice to,” Panelo said in a Palace briefing.

Panelo, however, said the President will let the people decide on the ratification of the BOL.

“Ultimately, it will be the people’s call, whether they want it or not. What is important and certain is that the President will abide by whatever the will of the sovereign people in that part of this country is,” he said.

BOL funds

Contrary to claims by House Majority Leader Rolando Andaya, Jr. the Bangsamoro Organic Law (BOL) plebiscite has adequate funding and will push through as planned.

“In the 2018 General Appropriations Act (GAA) and the 2019 National Expenditure Program (NEP), PhP111.8 million and PhP95.8 million are allocated, respectively, under Maintenance and Other Operating Expenses (MOOE) for the conduct and supervision of elections, referenda, recall votes and plebiscites in the budget of the Commission on Elections (Comelec),” said Budget and Management Secretary Benjamin E. Diokno yesterday.

“Furthermore, the Comelec has prior years’ continuing appropriations (from 2015 to 2017) amounting to PhP409.5 million as of end-September 2018, which they can tap to cover the funding requirements of the plebiscite,” the Budget chief added.

In addition to these funding sources, the Comelec, as a constitutional office with fiscal autonomy, may also utilize unobligated allotments amounting to PhP10.4 billion (as of end-September 2018) for preparatory activities in the national and local elections lodged in the built-in appropriations of the Comelec.

Mindanaoan solons have expressed confidence that the plebiscite on the BOL will be successful and generally peaceful.

In a press conference, Maguindanao Rep. Bai Sandra Sema and Anak Mindanao Rep. Amy Sangcopan said they got assurance from the Commission on Elections that the plebiscite will push through.

The two solons said the Comelec has enough budget for the holding of the plebsicte set on January 21 and February 6.

The BOL, which was signed into law by President Rodrigo Duterte, aims to replace the Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) and grant wider autonomy to Muslim Mindanao.

Joined by Lanao del Sur Rep. Jun Papandayan, Sema and Sangcopan urged all qualified voters to take part in this historic event that will create the Bangsamoro homeland.

“We urge all our peace-loving countrymen to join us in our prayers for a peaceful and successful ratification of the BOL,” the statement said.

Residents of the ARMM, Isabela City in Basilan, and Cotabato City will be voting on January 21, 2019 for the ratification of the BOL.

While on February 6, voters from Lanao del Norte, the towns of Aleosan, Carmen, Kabacan, Midsayap, Pikit, and Pigkawayan, will decide if they want to be included in the new Bangsamoro entity.

With Jester P. Manalastas