Millions of voters from Cotabato City, Maguindanao, Lanao del Sur, Basilan, Isabela City, Sulu, and Tawi-Tawi decided on Monday, January 21, for the plebiscite of the Bangsamoro Organic Law. (Kath M. Cortez/

CAGAYAN DE ORO CITY, Philippines – Muslim leaders have mixed reactions on the ratification of the Bangsamoro Organic Law (BOL) as a key to lasting peace in Mindanao following the holding of the plebiscite on Monday, Jan. 21.

While some Moro influencers remain hopeful that peace and development will finally be achieved in some areas in the Bangsamoro, others are skeptic and are of the opinion that nothing will change once a new autonomous region will be established.

Mayor Ali Sumandar of Piagapo town in Lanao del Sur, who voted “yes” during Monday’s plebiscite, said that Muslims and Christians must unite and work together to attain peace.

“I believe that if we are united we can have a peaceful community. Development and projects will follow. We have been waiting for this,” Sumandar said.

For her part, Jalilah Sapiin, Maranao youth leader and entrepreneur, said that BOL “is not just for us (Lanao del Sur). This is about the whole Bangsamoro. Our vote is just a stepping stone. What matters most are the actions after the plebiscite.”

“We have come this far. I hope we will not fail our forefathers for this ratification,” Sapiin added.

But Jerome Aba, chair of the progressive group Suara Bangsamoro, said the eventual creation of the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM) after the ratification “does not automatically translate to the attainment of lasting peace in the Bangsamoro areas.”

Aba said the BOL and BARMM “does not sufficiently gives resolution to the clamor of the Moro people for the right to self-determination, control over Moro land and resources and exacting justice of the historical and on-going injustices against the Moro.”

He said the BOL will create limited and not a genuine autonomy for the Bangsamoro as the national government will continue to be more powerful and in control over the new autonomous region as seen in the increased number of reserved powers and concurrent powers especially on the matters involving resources, justice system, defense and public order and safety.

“The BOL provisions on economic resources will facilitate the sell-out of Bangsamoro resources since it follows the national economic goals and neoliberal policies. In effect, this will open up Moro assets, foster wholesale selling of natural resources and allow foreign intervention in the development of resources,” Aba said.

The group also noted that land reform as articulated in the Autonomous Region in Muslim in Mindanao (ARMM) organic law is missing the BOL, saying that free land distribution will help resolve landlessness, poverty and continuing subservience of the Moro people to landlords and foreign businesses.

Aba has also urged the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) leadership to “remain vigilant on the sincere implementation of the BOL by the Duterte government” in light of the administration’s track record of non-compliance with signed agreements as with the peace deals made with the Moro National Liberation Front and the National Democratic Front of the Philippines. (

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