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Isabela City, Sulu reject BOL

ISABELA CITY – The capital of Basilan province, Isabela City, has joined Sulu province in the Muslim autonomous region in rejecting the controversial Bangsamoro Organic Law or BOL.

Isabela, led by Vice Mayor, Cherrylyn Akbar; and Jann Akbar, a strong advocate for the establishment of a federalism government, spearheaded the “NO to BOL” campaign in the city even before Monday’s plebiscite.

Wednesday’s final plebiscite tally showed Isabela with 22, 441 voting for No to BOL and 19, 630 voting for Yes. “We are so happy and the voice of the people is heard loud and clear. We rejected the BOL,” Akbar said after receiving the news of the results of the referendum.

Although Isabela rejected BOL, municipalities in the province voted for the ratification of the organic law. “What’s important here is that Isabela will never be a part of the so-called Bangsamoro autonomous region,” Akbar said.

Sulu also rejected the BOL with 163, 523 Tausugs voting No and 19, 032 for its ratification. “It will not prosper in Sulu. We do not want to be part of the Bangsamoro region. We are Tausugs, we are Bangsa Sug. Our people have spoken and they should respect our stand,” said former Gov. Sakur Tan, also known as Datu Shabandar, who is the spokesman and special envoy of the Royal Council of the Sulu Sultanate.

Tan said the Tausugs wanted out of the autonomous region and be part again of the Zamboanga Peninsula or Region 9.

With the second and last Bangsamoro plebiscite set on February 6, Muslims in Lanao del Norte and North Cotabato will decide whether to approve or reject the BOL, and be included in the new autonomous region under the rebel group Moro Islamic Liberation Front or MILF.

The MILF, which signed an interim peace deal with Manila in 2014, is expected to rule the new Bangsamoro Autonomous Region after majority of the Muslims in Mindanao voted January 21 for the ratification of the BOL – except Sulu province and Isabela City in Basilan province.

The BOL (Republic Act 11054) shall replace the current Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao or ARMM.

ARMM is composed of Basilan, Sulu, Tawi-Tawi, Maguindanao and Lanao del Sur provinces. Majority of Sulu’s over 830,000 Tausug population led by their political leaders Governor Toto Tan and his father, Dr. Sakur Tan wanted out of the autonomous region and to be part again of Zamboanga Peninsula or Region 9.

Sulu along with Basilan and Tawi-Tawi were all originally part of Region 9 following the signing of the 1986 peace agreement between the Moro National Liberation Front under Nur Misuari and the Ramos administration. After the accord, a referendum was held following the 1989 signing by President Corazon Aquino of the Republic Act 6734, and amended in 2001 which paved the way for another plebiscite which included Basilan and Marawi City.

But because of the block voting, Sulu shall stay with the autonomous region, except if the Supreme Court decides that the new organic law violates the Constitution following two petitions filed by Sulu Governor Toto Tan and the Philippine Constitution Association or PHILCONSA.

Tan, in his petition filed late last year, is questioning the legality and constitutionality of the BOL. And PHILCONSA also filed a separate petition and asked the Supreme Court to declare the organic law as unconstitutional, null and void.

Both petitions questioned the creation of a Bangsamoro Autonomous Region or BAR to replace the current Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao which is composed of Basilan, Sulu, Tawi-Tawi, Lanao del Sur and Maguindanao.

Constitutional framers argued the 1987 Constitution only recognizes one autonomous region in Muslim Mindanao. The creation of a Bangsamoro political entity is contrary to the Constitution which created only provinces, cities, municipalities and barangays, and autonomous regions in Muslim Mindanao and the Cordilleras, according to PHILCONSA.

“When R.A. 11054 abolished the ARMM and created the BARMM, a new and distinct territorial and political subdivision in lieu thereof, without first amending the Constitution, respondent’s legislative and executive departments violated and/or amended Sec. 1, Art. X of the Constitution, without jurisdiction or authority, with grave abuse of discretion tantamount to lack of and/or in excess of jurisdictions.”

“The legislative and the executive departments, creations of the Constitution, must observe and stand beside the Constitution and not act above, defy or supplant it,” PHILCONSA said. (Mindanao Examiner)


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