Yesterday, residents of the provinces and areas that comprise the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) came out in force to redo what their parents and elders have done back in 1989 which led to the creation of their region in the first place: a plebiscite. This time, the plebiscite will ask whether or not they want their communities to become part of a new Bangsamoro autonomous region replacing the ARMM, through the ratification of the Bangsamoro Organic Law. The proposed region will have even greater levels of autonomy than what the ARMM enjoyed. Among the most enthusiastic BOL supporters voted from the once-troubled capital of Lanao Del Sur: Marawi.
CNN Philippines has it that, on the day of plebiscite for the Bangsamoro Organic Law this Monday, January 21, Marawi City in Lanao Del Sur quite obviously voted overwhelmingly for the ratification of the BOL and, consequently, for inclusion in the territory of a future Bangsamoro autonomous region. In unofficial results following the completion of canvassing for the provincial capital this 3 AM of Tuesday, January 22, some 58,688 registered voters across the 96 barangays of Marawi voted “Yes” to the BOL, against 112 “No” voters. These results will be deemed official once announced by the national board of canvassers.
Support for the BOL and the resultant new autonomous region in Marawi was never in doubt. With a Muslim resident population of over 99% (but not fully 100), the city is one of the historical cultural centers of the Bangsamoro people. Following the devastation it suffered in 2017 after being occupied by ISIS-aligned extremists, Marawi looks to an autonomous region with greater autonomy from the rest of the Philippines as an added measure of security. The rest of Lanao Del Sur is fit to follow its capital, although canvassing in the rest of the province is unfinished and resumes today.
If Marawi is a bulwark of the BOL “Yes” vote, another major historical cultural center of the Bangsamoro looks to remain aloof. Cotabato City, which rejected inclusion in the ARMM nearly three decades ago, is looking to vote “No” once again, this time to the BOL, despite campaigning by Muslim supporters and the tacit desire of President Rodrigo Duterte himself. The late-night initial canvassing was put on hold at 1 AM Tuesday but will also resume in the morning. In the rest of Maguindanao, of which Cotabato is geographically but not politically joined, BOL ratification and inclusion looks very certain according to Gov. Esmael “Toto” Mangundadatu, with a 97% “Yes” vote in three municipalities combined.
A second plebiscite will be done on February 6 for North Cotabato, Lanao Del Norte except Iligan City, and 28 adjacent areas which petitioned for Bangamoro autonomous region inclusion, but only if the BOL ratification goes through from January 21.
Image courtesy of SunStar Davao