The Bangsamoro Region, which will be established once the Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) is approved by Congress and the executive, may extend beyond the core areas of the existing Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) as far as Luzon, House Minority Leader Ronaldo Zamora of San Juan City said.
Zamora gave the warning in reference to Chapter 5 of the Framework Peace Agreement on the Bangsamoro inked between the government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), which states that areas contiguous and outside the core territory where there are substantial populations of the Bangsamoro may anytime opt to be a part of the territory upon petition of at least 10 percent of the residents and approved by a majority of qualified voters in a plebiscite.
The core Bangsamoro territory, according to the Framework Agreement, includes the municipalities of Baloi, Munai, Nunungan, Pantar, Tagoloan and Tangkal in Lanao del Norte, as well as barangays in the municipalties of Kabacan, Carmen, Aleosan, Pigkawayan, Pikit and Midsayap that voted for inclusion in the ARMM during the 2001 plebiscite, the cities of Cotabato and Isabela and all other contiguous areas where there is a resolution of the local government or a petition of at least 10 percent of the qualified voters in it asking for their inclusion at least two months prior to the ratification of the BBL and the process of delimitation of the Bangsamoro.
“Did you see anything that excludes San Juan, for instance, [from]having a plebiscite? They may fit somebody [in the Bangsamoro Region]as long as there is that 10 percent. Has anybody told us that the Bangsamoro is limited only to core areas? One area in Taguig called Maharlika Village has a 100-percent Muslim population. That community’s population is around 20,000,” Zamora, a former executive secretary, told a press conference.
He added “20,000 is not a small number. Is 20,000 10 percent of Taguig City? Probably not, but it remains a sizeable number. 20,000 could comprise a large population for a municipality in Mindanao.”
The Palace has yet to submit the draft BBL to Congress.
Congress is pressed for time, considering that the Bangsamoro Region and its government should be in place before President Benigno Aquino 3rd steps down in June 2016.
The campaign period for the May 2016 presidential elections starts in February 2016, but the filing of candidacy starts in November 2015.
“Suppose somebody decides to try to campaign in Taguig and try to get the 20,000. Do you end up with a plebiscite? Those are the questions we have to raise,” Zamora added.