Duterte-Misuari talks after Bangsamoro Organic Law plebiscite eyed

January 19, 2019
Rodrigo Duterte and Nur Misuari
Rodrigo Duterte and Nur Misuari

PRESIDENT Rodrigo Duterte is keen on meeting with Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) founding chairman Nur Misuari to draw up a peace agreement after the Bangsamoro Organic Law (BOL) plebiscite.

The BOL is the product of the government’s negotiations with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), a breakaway faction of the MNLF.

“I hope to talk to him (Misuari) in the coming days as we agreed. Sabi ko tapusin muna natin ito (BOL), hintayin natin ‘yung atin then again we can resume after the Bangsamoro,” Duterte said in his Friday  speech during a peace assembly for the BOL ratification in Cotabato City.

“I would call out to him, extend my hand of friendship, peace and I hope we can sign an agreement that can also promote the interest of the MNLF and the rest of the Moro of Mindanao,” he added.

Misuari’s MNLF faction earlier expressed opposition to the BOL and wants the government to honor the 1996 peace agreement which led to the creation of the current Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM), of which he served as governor.

If ratified, BOL would pave the way for the creation of the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM) to address the Bangsamoro’s aspiration for genuine autonomy.

Duterte on Friday made his final pitch prior to the plebiscite for the ratification of the BOL, a measure which seeks to bring peace to Mindanao.

“Let us forget the bitterness of the past and look to the future. Ladies and gentlemen, mga mahal kong Moro brothers or sisters, magboto kayo ng ‘yes,’” Duterte said in his speech during a pro-BOL peace assembly in Cotabato City.

“Kapag hindi, hindi na ako punta dito kailanman,” he added in jest.

The President made the call three days before the first plebiscite on Jan. 21. The second day of plebiscite is set on Feb. 6.

The first part of the plebiscite will see voters from the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM), Cotabato City, and Isabela City in Basilan decide on the fate of the BOL. The rest of the core territories, including areas that asked to be included in the new Bangsamoro area, will get to vote on Feb. 6.

The BOL seeks to replace an existing poverty- and conflict-wracked Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao with a potentially larger, better-funded and more powerful region named Bangsamoro for the minority Muslims.

Duterte said the Mindanaoans’ approval of the law “will not only serve as an expression of your desire to end more than half a century of armed struggle in the region, but will also serve as a testament to your determination to bring genuine peace and development in Muslim Mindanao to an autonomous government that truly represents and understands the needs of the Muslim people.”

“Together, let us take this opportunity to begin the process of healing, reconciliation, so that one day we can embrace each other as brother and sister,” he added.

The plebiscite is scheduled for January 21 and February 6.