Former secretary Dureza confident Bangsamoro ‘will be a reality’

Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process Jesus Dureza and MILF chair Al Haj Murad Ebrahim recall their days as peace panel chairs negotiating across the table from 2001 to 2003 as they look forward to their partnership under the Duterte administration. MindaNews photo by CAROLYN O. ARGUILLAS

DAVAO CITY (MindaNews/ 07 Jan) – The Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM) will become a reality, and the fruit of the 50-year Moro struggle, marked by loss of lives, human sufferings, and agony, is now “ripe for everyone to harvest,” Jesus Dureza, former secretary of the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process (OPAPP) said.

“I am not a Moro but I am a Bangsamoro. I grew up from childhood and lived in the Moro homeland of Mindanao. I know the BOL will be a reality. No doubt about it,” he said in a statement on Monday.

Dureza, who resigned as OPAPP secretary in November 2018 following some of his subordinates were implicated in graft allegations, said the ratification of the Bangsamoro law would not deliver “magical instant results” but he called on the people to help nurture, tend, and nourish it one step at a time until it becomes sustainable.

The Commission on Elections has scheduled two separate dates for the plebiscite on Organic Law for the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao.

Voters in the six provinces and two cities in the current ARMM as well as Cotabato City and Isabela City in Basilan will vote on Jan. 21.

Those in Lanao del Norte (excluding Iligan City), the municipalities of Aleosan, Carmen, Kabacan, Midsayap, Pikit, and Pigkawayan in North Cotabato, and all other areas that asked for inclusion in the future BARMM will vote on Feb. 6.

Dureza said he is also optimistic that Cotabato City and Isabela City, which are not part of the ARMM, will decide to join the future Bangsamoro government that will replace the present ARMM once the law gets ratified.

He urged the people to give the OLBARMM the last chance to work as the best step to take despite their trauma and lingering doubts.

He said social healing and acceptance are starting points for cohesion.

“It may take time but now is the best time to start. There are still untold benefits to the area that need to be shown. A rejection may worsen the situation with a disabling environment. No one can survive as an island apart from the rest,” he said.

Despite the perceived objection of Sulu to OLBARMM at the moment, Dureza said it should not be a cause for concern, as he believed the people of the province will see the light and give the law a chance to prevent engendering animosity, enmity and inevitably distance and dissatisfaction stemming from a “no vote”.

“We understand why there are discordant voices and they are not without reason. But since there is no way to ‘opt out’ of the original ARMM in spite of the ‘No’ in Sulu province, the result will be of no moment. Sulu will be part of the new BARMM, notwithstanding,” he said.

“If things do not happen as expected, it’s not the end of the world. We still have President Duterte whose remaining years in office will enable him to surely align matters, in his own bold — at times, unconventional – ways. Truth to tell, were it not for him, this rare chance would not have come to pass,” he added.

He said the people should trust Duterte as the OLBARMM is “his baby” and that he will not allow this to be a wasted legacy.

If all else fails, Dureza said the OLBARMM can be amended or changed to suit the prevailing situations and climes.

The legislation process for the Bangsamoro law started during the Aquino III administration, after the government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front signed the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro.

However, the process hit a snag in Congress after the January 2015 encounter in Mamasapano, Maguindanao which claimed the lives of 44 police commandos, 17 MILF fighters and five civilians.

The police operatives went to Mamasapano to arrest Indonesian bomb expert Zulkipli bn Hir alias Marwan.

It turned out that the raid was not coordinated with the MILF as provided for in the ceasefire agreement between government and the rebel group. (Antonio L. Colina IV/MindaNews)