Photo Credit: Ben Hajan/EPA
The Asia Democracy Network (ADN) welcomes today a most important event in Southern Mindanao island of the Philippines where citizens will begin to decide on a plebiscite to determine whether or not Republic Act No. 11045 known as Bangsamoro Organic Law (BOL) will be ratified. The BOL aims to expand and create a new Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM) to replace the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM). The polls will be conducted today and on February 6 to accommodate 2 Million registered voters. This is a key element of the peace deal inked between the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) and the Philippine government to end decades of armed conflict in the region. ADN hopes the voters can exercise their right to free expression to decide their future, and for all parties to respect the will of the people after the ballot.
The plebiscite is mandated by the BOL to be endorsed by a simple majority of the people in order to ratify the law after President Rodrigo Duterte signed into law on July 26, 2018.
If the majority votes decides to accept the law, then the BARMM will be structured to encompass a bigger territorial jurisdiction, greater fiscal autonomy, enhanced self-governing system, and potential for the improvement of basic rights, and public service delivery as stated within the law itself. However, the non-ratification of the BOL will pose a great challenge for the future of peace and security in the region. Nevertheless, the plebiscite is a positive exercise that serve as a milestone in the democratic process in achieving peace in this conflicted land. The plebiscite is a precursor to a culmination of the self-determination struggle of the Moro people and they are achieving it in a hopefully peaceful way. There are of course challenges and spoilers in their midst. And we are confident that the Bangsamoro and Filipino peoples will be able to hurdle both. The plebiscite is one of the democratic exercises or actions that the people of the Philippines can be proud of amidst a flurry of questions regarding its democratic credentials due to its sorry regard to human rights and the like. ADN hopes that this will be a harbinger of a broader and sustained process of democracy not only in Mindanao but also in the country as a whole.
ADN is enthused to see the peace deal unfold and congratulates all stakeholders involved in the peace process in Mindanao. The roadmap to peace is clearer now, and ADN hopes all parties will endeavor to protect the process and allow the voters to exercise their free will to the hilt. “The Asia Democracy Network urges all parties to respect the process to enable real peace to prevail in the region. if things go well, the Mindanao peace process will serve as a model for peacebuilding and conflict resolution in the Asian region and even beyond– a peace that we believe is the ultimate component to strengthen and advance democracy in the region” said Ichal Supriadi, Secretary General of ADN.