PRESIDENT Rodrigo Duterte on Wednesday, January 23, was elated with the overwhelming "yes" vote for the Bangsamoro Organic Law (BOL) which grants greater autonomy to Muslim region in the south.
"I'm very happy. We are a step nearer to a peaceful Mindanao," the President said on the sidelines of an event he graced in Pasay City, reacting to a report that majority of voters were in favor of the ratification of the BOL.
So far, four out of five provinces in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) have approved the BOL's ratification, while only two opposed it, based on the Commission on Election (Comelec) unofficial count.
The "yes" vote prevailed in Lanao del Sur, Maguindanao, Basilan, and Tawi-Tawi. The "no" vote, however, was leading in Sulu and Isabela City in Basilan.
The BOL aims to replace the ARMM in Muslim Mindanao with Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao, which will have an expanded land and water jurisdiction, greater fiscal autonomy, and increased share in national government resources, among others.
The plebiscite is not yet over as the second round is scheduled for February 6.
Despite the seemingly overwhelming support for the BOL, Duterte said he was also focused on having a talk with Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) founder Nur Misuari in an effort to achieve long-lasting peace in MIndanao.
The President said he had to seek peace with Misuari, especially since the BOL was opposed by majority of the people of Sulu, a known bailiwick of the MNLF leader.
"We have to refocus again dito sa western side kasi si Misuari (here in the western side because of Misuari). Misuari must also have something there. Hindi naman pwede na sa isang ano lang (we can't be on good terms with just one party). Sulu voted no so that's something," Duterte said.
"So I have to take that into account otherwise sabihin nila binalewala yung damdamin nila (because they might think we're ignoring their sentiments). You know that's how it operates, especially among Moro people, especially the suffering," he added. (SunStar Philippines)