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A different #MeToo: voting ‘yes’ to BOL

05:03 AM January 16, 2019

Jan. 21 is special to me because it’s my youngest daughter and my grandson’s birthday. This year, it’s even more special because it’s the plebiscite for the Bangsamoro Organic Law (BOL) in areas proposed to be included in the expanded Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao.

On the matter of the Moro peace process, the Duterte administration has been true to its promise that “change has come,” and is evidently expending political will to finally bring peace and prosperity to the South.

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As a Mindanaoan himself with Maranaw lineage, Mr. Duterte understands the Moros’ grievances caused by historical and social injustices, and our undying aspiration for genuine autonomy in our ancestral lands. The BOL is a testament to the Duterte administration’s resolve to stand up against “political bullies” or “political terrorists” who are antipeace and are only self-interested.

As a Moro sexagenarian who has been witness to the highs and lows of the almost 5-decade-old struggle for Moro autonomy and peace negotiations spanning several administrations, I can say that we are already the closest we’ve ever gotten to achieving lasting peace and development in Mindanao—and it would be counterproductive to skid off by voting “no” to the BOL.

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It would, in fact, be to the disadvantage of the whole nation if the BOL fails and the government would have to pour resources again for new peace talks and all-inclusive sectoral consultations like the one I have participated in—the Senate’s consultation among Sultanates of Mindanao in 2015 for the drafting of the Bangsamoro Basic Law, the previous name of the BOL. If the BOL fails, a worst-case scenario would cost lives as the armed conflict is reignited.

In my younger years as an overseas Filipino worker in Saudi Arabia in the late ’70s and early ’80s, I actively engaged in the activities and efforts of the Bangsa Moro Liberation Organization, founded by the late Haroun Al-Rashid Lucman, in uniting Moro leaders in the Middle East toward the call for a peaceful resolution of the armed conflict in Mindanao.

As for Mindanao’s youth today, they need not take arms; they just have to take a pen and vote “yes” in the BOL plebiscite to be part the historic change about to happen.

The ball is now in our hands, the sovereign people of Bangsamoro, to ratify the BOL and to chart the destiny not only of the people living in the territories to be covered by the Bangsamoro juridical entity, but of the whole nation as well.

The national government, the legislators, Moro rebels and leaders, civil society organizations and even foreign supporters, have all done their share. It’s now upon us to do what’s upright and responsible by participating in the plebiscite and affirming the BOL by voting “yes.”

As my millennial daughter said, while #TimesUp and #MeToo refer to the phenomenal movement in America that exposed and is fighting against sexual harassment in the entertainment industry, here in the Philippines, we can have a different connotation for these hashtags: It’s #TimesUp for a good, lasting change, and #MeToo supports it by doing my part.

The establishment of the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region will be a big leap in recognizing diversity in the country. Other nations like Malaysia and Singapore bank on and promote diversity as an essential plank of national harmony and economic, social and political progress. The United States, too, recently saw its most racially diverse Congress ever — including the country’s first two Muslim congresswomen — gaveled in.

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Filipinos can make history, too, this 2019. #Yolo (you only live once), say the youth. But for the BOL plebiscite, I say #Yovo (you only vote once). This might be the only time in our lifetime that we reach this milestone in the long journey of our people to a land of promise. Let’s make that land of promise come true. Let’s vote “yes” to the BOL.

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Alexander P. Mama-o is the chair of Solid Alliance for Peace, Progress, Reforms, and Democracy, and the Datu a Cabugatan (Crown Prince) of the Sultanate of Bayang in Lanao del Sur.

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TAGS: Alexander P. Mama-o, Bangsamoro Organic Law, BOL plebiscite, Inquirer Commentary, Rodrigo Duterte
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