Bangsamoro region: 'We have a new government – and another journey'

(3rd UPDATE) '1.5 million said yes to peace, yes to Bangsamoro,' says lawyer Maisara Dandamun Latiph of the Bangsamoro Transition Commission

Paterno Esmaquel II

Published: 1:54 PM January 25, 2019

Updated: 8:11 AM February 7, 2019

BANGSAMORO CANVASSING. The ballot boxes containing election returns from Isabela City, Basilan are processed during the canvassing for the Bangsamoro plebiscite at the Comelec main office in Intramuros, Manila on January 25, 2019. Photo by Inoue Jaena/Rappler

MANILA, Philippines (3rd UPDATE) – Muslims and Christians on Friday, January 25, hailed the ratification of the Bangsamoro Organic Law (BOL) that will create a new Muslim region in the southern Philippines.

"We have a new government, and another journey toward peace," said Dr Susana Salvador Anayatin, commissioner of the Bangsamoro Transition Commission, in a speech shortly after the BOL was deemed ratified by the Commissionon Elections (Comelec).

Ratification means the creation of the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao or BARMM. It will replace the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao, which has been called a "failed experiment" because of its dependence on the national government in Metro Manila and accusations of corruption and mismanagement.

Anayatin described ratification as a new opportunity for Muslims and Christians to push for peace "not only in our time but in succeeding generations."

She then thanked President Rodrigo Duterte, Congress, the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), the local government units, and other organizations for pushing for the BOL.

"Salamat sa pagsusulong ng batas na 'to na magbibigay-tuldok sa kaguluhan sa Mindanao," Anayatin said. (Thank you for pushing for this law that will end conflict in Mindanao.)

In a separate speech, Lawyer Maisara Dandamun Latiph, who also witnessed the canvassing in Manila, thanked the Comelec for a peaceful and credible Bangsamoro plebiscite. She said, "1.5 million said yes to peace, yes to Bangsamoro."

"Alam po natin na ito ay hinintay namin nang halos limang dekada. Ito na po ang pagtutuldok ng matagal na kaguluhan sa Mindanao (We know that we waited for this for almost 5 decades. This is the end of the long conflict in Mindanao)," said Alan Balangi, president of One Bangsa.

Robredo: 'Historic victory'

For Vice President Leni Robredo, the ratification of the BOL is a "historic victory" that Filipinos, especially those in Mindanao, should take pride in.

"Bantayan at suportahan natin ang patuloy na pagsulong ng prosesong ito, dahil hindi pa dito nagtatapos ang laban para sa kapayapaan (Let us guard and support this process, because the fight for peace does not end here)," Robredo said. 

"Ngayon, pagkatapos ng ilang taon ng pagsisikap at pakikipag-usap, sakripisyo at paniniwala, sa wakas, ang pangarap na ito ay abot-kamay na rin natin (Now, after many years of struggles and dialogues, sacrifice and faith, finally, this dream is within our reach)," the Vice President added.

The European Union (EU) also sent a statement following the ratification of the BOL. 

In its statement, the EU Delegation to the Philippines congratulated the Philippine government, the MILF, and the Comelec "for the generally peaceful conduct of the Bangsamoro Organic Law plebiscite on January 21, 2019, before the second phase to be held on February 6, 2019."

"The creation of the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao is a significant milestone in the history of the Philippines," the EU said.

"The EU is prepared to continue to support the implementation of the Bangsamoro Organic Law and to work closely with the relevant stakeholders towards long-lasting peace, development and prosperity for the benefit of Mindanao and the Filipino people," the EU added.

The World Bank also congratulated residents of the Bangsamoro and Filipinos for the ratification of the BOL, calling the move a "significant milestone" in achieving lasting peace, stability, and prosperity in Mindanao.

The multilateral lender noted that much work remains in translating the promise of autonomy and peace.

"The recent bombings in Jolo and the residual violence in some other places in conflict-affected areas following the BOL's ratification highlight the complexity of challenges facing the region and the country," said the World Bank on Thursday, February 7.

The World Bank committed to work with the government and other sectors for the success of the Bangsamoro. – with reports from Pia Ranada and Ralf Rivas/Rappler.com