Sulu leaders drag feet on Bangsamoro region


JOLO, Sulu: Some local leaders and residents here are apprehensive of joining the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region (BAR), the new entity that will replace the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao under the proposed Bangsamoro Basic Law.

Some members of the Bangsamoro Transition Commission (BTC) on Wednesday briefed Sulu local leaders, including Gov. Abdusakur “Toto” Tan 2nd and his father, former Gov. Abdusakur “Sakur” Tan, on the need to create the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region (BAR) through BBL.

Tan and his father expressed concern about how the BBL would affect their current setup, particularly about jurisdiction and management of municipal waters.

They opposed the plan to rename the Sulu Sea to Bangsamoro waters.

The Tans are opposed to a provision in the BBL that requires areas under the ARMM to vote in a plebiscite whether they accept the BBL.

BBL BRIEFINGS A group welcomes senators who flew to Tawi-Tawi to conduct public hearings on the proposed Bangsamoro Basic Law. PHOTO BY RENE H. DILAN

“It’s not that we don’t like the BBL. I think it would better of we give our (Muslim) brothers (and sisters) the freedom of choice,” the older Tan said.

“If this is really good, BBL will win. Give us the opportunity to give our people the chance to understand it so that our grandchildren would not blame us in the future if it will not succeed,” Sakur said.

He explained that he and some of his constituents do not want to merely answer “yes” or “no” when the BBL is subjected to a plebiscite.

“This is what I ask from you, can we make it more democratic?” Sakur said. Toto shared his father’s sentiments.

He cited Sec. 1, Article 15 which provides that the establishment of the Bangsamoro should “take effect upon ratification of the BBL by majority of the votes cast in a plebiscite to be conducted among others, in the present geographical area of the ARMM.”

He said in previous organic acts, amendments and related laws “recognized the right of every Muslim to vote whichever way he pleases, as evidenced by the inclusion in the ARMM of only those who voted favorably.”

“The present (BBL) deviates and attempts to construct a monolithic whole from the forcible assimilation of the minority who may choose to vote negatively based on different persuasions vis-a-vis the creation of BBL,” he said.

“This, then, is a guarantee towards the road to failure. Socio-cultural differences between and among Muslim communities and voting provinces may just be the unrecognized factor why previous efforts failed in the first place,” Toto said in a position paper submitted to the panel.

The governor said “there can never be absolute homogeneity in a genuine and true democracy due to the inherent but unique nuances of each and every Muslim province especially thriving in an archipelagic state such as ours.”

“Insistence on the automatic creation of the entire Bangsamoro based only on the mathematical simple plurality rule of obtaining the (approval of the) majority foments strife and dissent because when the minority opts not to join, they will be compelled to do so by the very law which purports to protect them from the tyranny of the majority,” he said. “This will result to a hostage situation of those who would participate in a plebiscite called for the purpose of ascertaining their true will, then proceeding to railroad acceptance of what they would have potentially rejected.

He said that a plebiscite should only guide government in identifying previous Muslim communities who opted to participate but not to institutionalize the existence of the present set up “because the proposed BBL should usher in fresh beginnings, not shackled by failed experiments of the past.”

“Participative democracy, not appeasement should be primordial if true and lasting peace is the ultimate goal,” he added.

Sen. Juan Miguel Zubiri, chairman of the Senate subcommittee on BBL, on Thursday conducted a public hearing on the BBL here to get the pulse of the residents to be affected by the BBL.

Senators Juan Edgardo Angara, Joseph Victor Ejercito, Sherwin Gatchalian, and Risa Hontiveros joined Zubiri in the “listening tour” to help them craft a constitutionally-acceptable BBL.


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