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‘Di kayang sila lang! Lawmakers to resolve Bangsamoro territory issues before Duterte

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By Xave Gregorio

With lawmakers still far from agreeing on the areas which would compose the Bangsamoro territory, they will head to Malacañang on Wednesday (July 8) to resolve the issue before President Rodrigo Duterte.

Senate President Vicente “Tito” Sotto III confirmed in a text message that Duterte would be helping to iron out the issue on the Bangsamoro territory before a National Security Council meeting he was invited to.

Senator Juan Edgardo Angara said they would be meeting after lunch.

Isabela 1st District Rep. Rodolfo Albano III also said in a chance interview that the issue on the territory of the proposed Bangsamoro autonomous region and the plebiscite would be taken to the Malacañang.

“Ang pinaka-contentious naman diyan ‘yung sa plebiscite. Hindi ko pa masabi sa inyo kasi dadalhin pa sa Malacañang bukas,” Albano said at the sidelines of the bicameral conference committee. “Ipe-present kay Presidente.”

The issue of whether to include the 39 barangays of North Cotabato and the six municipalities of Lanao del Norte in the territory of the Bangsamoro region has been a bone of contention among legislators, especially district representatives who stand to lose territory if the Bangsamoro Basic Law is passed, Senate Majority Leader Juan Miguel Zubiri said.

“I understand the positions of the district congressmen because it is a loss of territory for them and medyo mabigat ‘yan at malalim. Kaya ako’y nagrerespeto sa kanila,” Zubiri told reporters in an interview.

The Senate’s version of the BBL makes 39 North Cotabato barangays and six Lanao del Norte municipalities part of the Bangsamoro’s territorial jurisdiction. These barangays and municipalities voted to be included in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) during the 2001 plebiscite.

Under Senate Bill No. 1717, these barangays and municipalities may be able to vote in a plebiscite and be included in the Bangsamoro region without a majority vote from the municipality or province they belong in.

This differs from House Bill No. 6475 which only mentions the 39 barangays in the conduct of the plebiscite and requires that the municipalities they are in also cast the same vote in favor of being included in the Bangsamoro region.

The Bangsamoro Transition Commission (BTC) says this could lead to the 39 barangays in North Cotabato and the six municipalities in Lanao del Norte to lose in the plebiscite and not be included in the Bangsamoro region.

Zubiri said yesterday that the barangays and municipalities mentioned in the BBL are “areas of security concerns” as they are supposedly home to the largest Moro Islamic Liberation Front camps.

“These are areas where some of the biggest MILF (Moro Islamic Liberation Front) camps are located. My fear is they will not conform with the peace process if they’ll not be given a democratic process to choose if they can join or not the new Bangsamoro,” he said.

However, BTC chair Ghazali Jafaar said these areas are not necessarily home to MILF camps but are places where most residents Muslim Moro natives who led the struggle of the indigenous peoples.

The Senate Majority Leader said last month over dwIZ radio that he planned to bring Duterte to the table to resolve deadlocks on the BBL.