Duterte on Bangsamoro plebiscite: “I will campaign for the ‘yes'” vote

DAVAO CITY (MindaNews / 09 September) —  President Rodrigo Duterte has announced he would campaign for a “yes” vote in the January 21, 2019 plebiscite to ratify RA 11054 or the Organic Law for the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (OLBARMM).

“Meron na tayo sa BBL (Bangsamoro Basic Law) lumusot na. And ito pa — karamihan ito sila mga Maguindanao.” (We already have a Bangsamoro Basic Law. Most of them are from Maguindanao), he said, apparently referring to the majority in the proposed Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao.

“I don’t know if Marawi would find its way there as a member. Pero hopefully, we are going into a plebiscite. I will campaign for the ‘yes’ para ma-ano na. Mahirap talaga ang sitwasyon sa Mindanao. (The situation in Mindanao is difficult),  Duterte told the Filipino community at the Royal Cultural Palace in Amman, Jordan on September 7.

It was the first time since he signed RA 11054 on July 27 that Duterte categorically declared he would campaign for “yes” in the plebiscite.

President Rodrigo Roa Duterte addresses he Filipino community at the Royal Cultural Palace in Amman, Jordan on September 7, 2018. Rene B. Lumawag / /PRESIDENTIAL PHOTO

Duterte was expected to make a pitch for the “yes” vote in the plebiscite during the presentation of RA 11054 to the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) in Malacanang on August 6.

But Duterte, who read a prepared speech, merely urged residents of the proposed BARMM to “actively participate in constructive discussions” about the Bangsamoro law and to vote in the plebiscite that would ratify it.

“I ask my Bangsamoro brothers and sisters, as well as the indigenous communities and Christian settlers living within the Bangsamoro areas, to actively participate in constructive discussions about the law in your homes, in your villages, and communities. But more importantly, I encourage you to take part in the upcoming plebiscite so that you may express your sovereign will through the ballot,” Duterte said.

In Jerusalem on September 4, Duterte during the signing of agreements with the private sector, said nothing about the Bangsamoro law, a legislation he referred to as “monumental” on August 6.

He told Israel’s business sector that he had been talking with MILF chair Al Haj Murad Ebrahim whom he described as the “head of a revolutionary group, a large one in Mindanao” and that the MILF has “itself agreed to talk to us and participate in amending the Constitution if it’s possible from unitary to federal type and this will be the mechanism where we can fit (in) what we have agreed upon into some regional structures and changes that would be needed including the finance.”

The MILF is preparing for the January 2018 plebiscite and the transition from the ARMM to BARMM.  Although supportive of federalism, it has repeatedly said the Bangsamoro law should be passed first to allow them to govern themselves under a new structure and exercise their right to self determination.

Timetable with Misuari

Duterte also mentioned Nur Misuari, founding chair of the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) that signed with government the 1996 Final Peace Agreement. He described Misuari as having “kept his faith as a Filipino.”

“He does not want to fight and he is waiting for my cue. And I have been discussing this with my military men and he is asking for something which I have to discuss with the Filipino people yet — as yet.”

What he and Misuari talked about and what he and the military discussed have not been divulged by Duterte

In Jordan on September 7, he mentioneda “timetable” with Misuari.

“SiNur Misuari is meron kaming timetable. (Nur and I have a timetable). There is a timeline for us to talk again,” Duterte said.

Duterte last met with Misuari at the Matina Enclaves here on August 22, 2018.

Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process Jesus Dureza attended the meeting and posted photographs on his Facebook page but said nothing about what Duterte and Misuari talked about.

On July 26, at the 69th Araw ng Ipil in Zamboanga Sibugay, Duterte said he would give Misuari another autonomous region.

“I’d like to talk to Nur kung unsa gyud so that we can have it by the end of the year.”

“I can create … just like an autonomy for him,” Duterte said.

“That is what he wants and pending the federal system implementation, buhaton na lang niya una, ug na’y salig siya nako (he can do that first, if he has faith in me). I have about three years to hack it,” Duterte said.

How he can “create” an autonomy for Misuari, the President did not say. The Bangsamoro’s proposed area of autonomy includes Misuari’s Sulu. The 1987 Constitution provides for only one autonomous region in Muslim Mindanao.


The passage of the Bangsamoro law is mandated by the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro (CAB) which government and the MILF signed on March 27, 2014.

RA 11054 paves the way for the creation of a new autonomous political entity called the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM) which would replace the 28-year old Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM).

The ARMM is deemed abolished upon ratification of the BARMM in a plebiscite.

The proposed area of the BARMM is the present ARMM (the provinces of Maguindanao, Lanao del Sur, Basilan, Sulu, Tawi-tawi, and the cities of Marawi and Lamitan); the cities of Cotabato and Isabela in Basilan; the six towns in Lanao del Norte (Balo-i, Munai, Nunungan, Pantar, Tagoloan, and Tangkal) and the 39 barangays in six North Cotabato towns that voted yes to inclusion in the ARMM in the 2001 plebiscite: three in Aleosan, two in Carmen, three Kabacan, 12 in Midsayap, eight in Picgawayan, and 11 in Pikit.

The six towns of Lanao del Norte and 39 barangays in six North Cotabato towns can be part of the BARMM only if their mother units — Lanao del Norte and the six towns in North Cotabato — also vote for inclusion in the plebiscite.

The law also  provides that all other contiguous areas where a resolution of the local government unit or a petition of at least 10% of the registered voters in the area seeks inclusion at least two months prior to the plebiscite. (Carolyn O. Arguillas / MindaNews)