MARAWI CITY – More than half a million Lanao del Sur residents voted to ratify the Bangsamoro Organic Law (BOL), according to the final and official results released by the Commission on Elections (Comelec) Tuesday evening.
Based on the final tally released by the Provincial Plebiscite Board of Canvassers (PPBC), a total of 503,420 voters answered “yes” and 9,735 “no” to the question whether they want their respective localities to be part of the new region that would replace the existing Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM).
In this city alone, 58,688 voted “yes,” while only 112 voted “no.”
During the January 21 plebiscite, voters from more than 10,000 displaced families cast their votes in makeshift voting precincts, one of which is located inside a temporary housing site.
Amil Ampuan, barangay chairman of Banggolo, said he voted in favor of the BOL because it represents hope for him and his fellow Maranaos.
His constituents, he said, “were too eager to vote. I campaigned ‘yes’ because even President Rodrigo Duterte would have done so.”
Samsodin Salibot, an official of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), said he voted “yes” as he believes the new Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM) would be good for his children’s future.
Salibot said that after participating in at least 15 armed encounters against government forces, he was already “tired of war” and wants a normal life.
Mayor Ali Sumandar of Piagapo town, who also voted “yes”, said Muslims and Christians must unite and work together to attain peace.
“I believe that if we are united, we can have a peaceful community. Development and projects will follow. We have been waiting for this,” Sumandar said.
For her part, Jalilah Sapiin, Maranao youth leader and entrepreneur, said that BOL “is not just for us (Lanao del Sur). This is about the whole Bangsamoro. Our vote is just a stepping stone. What matters most are the actions after the plebiscite.”
“We have come this far. I hope we will not fail our forefathers for this ratification,” Sapiin added.
However, Jerome Aba, chairman of the progressive group Suara Bangsamoro, expressed guarded optimism on the creation of a new autonomous region, saying the BOL ratification “does not automatically translate to the attainment of lasting peace in the Bangsamoro areas.”
Aba said the Moro people should continue to demand the right to self-determination, control over Moro lands and resources, and in pursuing justice to address “historical and ongoing injustices against the Moro.”
Divina Suson and Jigger Jerusalem With reports from Nef Luczon/PNA-northboundasia.com