My brothers and sisters, the arrival of the New Year brings with it a big and important change that may happen in the lives of our fellow Muslim brothers and sisters.
This coming 21st of January, a historical plebiscite will occur at the current Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao, or ARMM, wherein its citizens may either agree or disagree on establishing the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao, or BARMM. It can be recalled that in June 2018, President Rodrigo Duterte signed the Bangsamoro Organic Law, that was passed by Congress to partly implement the agreement forged by the Philippine government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front or MILF after a series of discussions aimed at ending the hostilities in the South. It is seen by many Muslims in Mindanao, as well as non-Muslim Filipinos, that the BOL’s approval may pave the way to a lasting peace, which will hasten the development of Mindanao. This will be a welcome development, especially for those that have not experienced economic improvement and our brothers and sisters who cannot avail themselves of public services because of the war and chaos. They also see the BOL as a first step toward establishing the autonomous leadership many of them have been longing for.
For the BOL to take effect, it needs the vote of the people living in the specific areas of the BARMM, apart from other areas. It will also establish the management structure of the
government within the assigned territory. Part of this structure is having one Bangsamoro government, in consonant with the Philippine constitution and under the general supervision of the President of the Republic of the Philippines. The Bangsamoro government will have its own Chief Minister, its own legislature or parliament, and its own judiciary.
Once the majority of the people within the assigned BARMM have approved the BOL in the coming plebiscite, a Bangsamoro Transition Authority will be created to oversee the change in the current government from ARMM to BARMM. And the first regular elections for the Bangsamoro government will be held in 2022.
Brothers and sisters, it is probable that not many of our non-Muslim fellowmen understand the importance of this coming plebiscite and the establishment of a Bangsamoro government within BARMM territory. Many may have doubts, fears, or even distrust on the capability of our Muslim brothers and sisters to govern themselves, as well as manage their economic and political development. We need to be reminded of the process of the peace talks that bore fruit under the agreement. We need to have faith in our representatives in Congress who drafted the provisions of the BOL.
Even the teachings of our Catholic Church agrees to the principles of the peoples’ self-government, particularly the people who have been left off for the longest time—some may say at the edge—and those who have been set aside. This will allow them to have a much greater involvement in their own development. This also speaks of justice. Our fellow Muslim brothers and sisters have been deprived of their right to govern their land. This will correct “historical injustice,” which is the intention of BOL.
My brothers and sisters, it is important to listen to the voices of our Muslim brothers and sisters in this coming plebiscite. Let us hope for a peaceful, clean and honest plebiscite in Mindanao.
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