Thousands attend forum on BOL in Isabela City

THE Ulama (Islamic Scholars) and Christian leaders initiated an interfaith forum in Isabela City, the capital of Basilan province, to educate the residents about the Bangsamoro Organic Law (BOL).

Isabela is currently not part of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM). Its residents would be asked through a plebiscite scheduled for January 21, 2019 whether they were willing to become part of the new Bangsamoro region.

Ariel De Asis, head of the Christian for Peace Movement and one of the organizers, said the dialogue organized by the Inter-Faith Council of Leaders (IFCL)-Basilan on Thursday, December 27 was timely because the plebiscite is just about three weeks away.

Aside from Basilan, the provinces of Sulu, Tawi-Tawi, Maguindanao and Lanao del Sur form part of the autonomous region.

De Asis, co-chair of the steering committee, said the dialogue is aimed at erasing

misconceptions and speculations on the BOL.

He emphasized during the forum that the BOL is a social concern and not a political issue.

“An informed citizen, an informed people, will make a very good decision,” said Professor Alzad Sattar, chairperson of the steering committee.

ARMM Governor Mujiv Hataman lauded the IFCL-Basilan for organizing the forum.

He said the decision of Isabela’s residents would be respected, but he stressed that the city would benefit if it becomes part of the new Bangsamoro.

Cardinal Orlando Quevedo, Archbishop Emeritus of Cotabato, said he supports the ratification of the BOL since the law underscores the principle of common good, which consist of three important aspects: no discrimination, no exclusion, and fairness and equity.

He said there’s a win-win solution as the BOL addresses the historical injustices against the Bangsamoro people, recognizes the territorial sovereignty of the country, and recognizes the rights of minorities.

He advised the Christian communities to discern the information being peddled against the BOL as he noted that the new law respects religious freedom.

He quoted a provision stipulating that the people living inside the Bangsamoro territory are “free to undertake activities pursuant to their religious activities and values”

Mohagher Iqbal, chairperson of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) Implementing Peace Panel, explained the benefits of the BOL, saying that

the intention of the law is to achieve genuine autonomy, which is self governing entity.

Iqbal said the indications of “real autonomy entity is having a political power - and BOL provides 55 powers of the Bangsamoro government; and fiscal autonomy or access to the resources.”

Iqbal said the ratification of the BOL will address the political clamor that the Bangsamoro people have been pushing for years.

The ratification of the BOL will create a new government entity, the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM), which will replace the ARMM.

“War is temporary. Peace is final,” Iqbal said as he thanked President Rodrigo Duterte for shepherding the passage of the BOL.

Secretary Carlito Galvez, Jr., Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process, said the BOL is anchored on the administration’s principle of inclusivity.

Galvez said the BOL is a law that would benefit everyone regardless of ideology, tribe, or religion and it gives due recognition to the identity of all residents living within the Bangsamoro territory.


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