Deputy Speaker: don’t include Zambo City villages in Bangsamoro sub-state; GPH panel conducts 2nd leg of consultations

ZAMBOANGA CITY (Mindanews/15 May) – Deputy House Speaker for Mindanao Ma. Isabelle Climaco-Salazar has reiterated to the government peace panel and the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process (OPAPP) that they do not want any of the city’s 98 barangays to be part of the proposed Bangsamoro sub-state.

“I would like to remind the Philippine government panel and the OPAPP that we are to represent the interest of the people of the Philippines and the Zamboangueños per se, are part of the people of the Philippines. The 98 barangays of Zamboanga City should not be dismembered,” she said.

“Let us respect the two plebiscites where the Zamboangueños voted against the proposition to be part of the ARMM. We are for peace and we hope that something positive will be forged but let us respect the desire of the people that we remain as one Zamboanga City,” she added.

Salazar, the city’s first district representative to Congress, said  Zamboangueños have twice objected in plebiscites to be part of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) and “so they should respect the desire of the people that we remain as one Zamboanga City.”

Salazar’s statement was issued following reports that the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) peace panel is allegedly proposing to include  at least five barangays of this city in its so-called Bangsamoro sub-state.

Salazar said she got no straightforward answer from Secretary Teresita Deles, Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process, about the alleged inclusion of  five barangays.

But she said Deles emphasized that every detail in the proposed pact will pass through processes to be undertaken jointly by the government and the MILF including consultations with the people.

In the post-Marcos administrations, residents of Zamboanga City and other cities and provinces listed in the 1976 Tripoli Agreement between the government and the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) , were subjected to two plebiscites: the first to determine if they want to be part of the ARMM, an entity created by virtue of Republic Act 6734 enacted in 1989 in pursuit of the constitutional provision granting autonomy to Muslim Mindanao and the Cordillera.

The second plebiscite was held in 2001 when Republic Act 9054, supposedly in fulfillment of the 1996 Final Peace Agreement between government and the MNLF was  enacted into law, allowing for the expansion of the coverage of the ARMM. Basilan became the fifth province joining the ARMM provinces of Sulu, Tawi-tawi, Maguindanao and Lanao del Sur.

Salazar said she is banking on Deles’ assurance that all these processes will pass through consultations.

Salazar said she will really make sure that the people of this city is consulted and will not be included in the proposal in whatever form of sub-state or Bangsamoro Juridical Entity “because the Supreme Court has already decided.”

“They should not act against the Constitution and they should respect the territorial integrity of our nation,” she added.

Salazar assured that she, as a representative of this city, Mayor Celso Lobregat and the other local government leaders are standing pat on the city’s non-inclusion in the ARMM or Bangsamoro entity.

Earlier, Lobregat said he will bring the residents’ sentiments, as voiced out in their overwhelming “no” votes in the 1989 and 2001 plebiscites, to the attention of  the OPAPP  and the peace panel on May 17

The meeting will also be attended by Vice-Mayor Cesar Iturralde and members of the City Council per request of the government peace panel.

The OPAPP press release on May 14 said the government peace panel headed by UP College of Law Dean Marvic Leonen will consult local chief executives of Basilan on May 16 and Sulu on May 18 and will pay a courtesy call on Zamboanga Mayor Celso Lobregat and other city officials on May 17.

Joining Leonen are panel members Senen Bacani, Miriam Coronel Ferrer, Ramon Piang Sr., and panel consultant Hamid Barra.

“The series of consultations aims to solicit the views and sentiments of stakeholders on the GPH-MILF peace talks, as well as raise their awareness and engage them in the peace process discourse,” it said.

The government panel met with officials of Maguindanao and Sultan Kudarat provinces on April 13 and 14.

The government and MILF peace panels met on April 27 and 28 in Kuala Lumpur and will meet again on June 27 and 28, again in Kuala Lumpur, where the government is expected to submit its counter proposal to the MILF’s proposal for a Bangsamoro sub-state. (MindaNews)