As twin explosions claimed the lives of 20 people in a church in Jolo, Sulu on Sunday
, former senator Juan Ponce Enrile warned that the creation of a new autonomous region would not completely address the disunity and conflict in Mindanao.
“Knowing the problem of the area, knowing the dynamics of the problem of Islam around the world and even in Mindanao, I have my own pessimism that the solution might not be enough,” Enrile said at a press forum.
He said the Bangsamoro Organic Law (BOL) and the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM) would not be effective because there is no “complete unity” among the followers of the Islamic faith.
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“There is an endemic latent disunity in the area and that may heighten because there are other forces operating in the area that may impinge on the peace and order of Mindanao,” Enrile said.
“I will always assume that in any society there are always unhappy people that can create a problem for any sitting government,” he added.
Enrile said he supported the ratification of the BOL
but expressed reservations about its chances for success.
“The mere fact that the law was passed by Congress does not solve the problem. It has to be tested on the ground whether it will work or not. And I hope that it will work although I have my reservations,” he said.
At the same forum, Senator Aquilino Pimentel III described the BOL as a “pivotal and historic milestone” in the quest for peace in Mindanao, but said the mission of the government goes beyond the ratification of the law.
“We know from recent history that laying the groundwork for peace must be followed by a sustained effort at keeping the peace,” he said.
He said the law’s proper implementation “is one of the keys to unlocking the economic potential of the region, and a critical step to fulfilling the promise of Mindanao, which has been held back by decades of armed conflict.”
“Regional peace and stability and complementary national measures like the Ease of Doing Business Law will fuel economic development and attract the investments Mindanao needs,” he said.
Pimentel noted that the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) was the country’s fifth fastest growing region in 2017, with a growth rate of 7.3 percent in that year.
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“The country is benefiting from its seventh consecutive year of sustained economic growth. Spurring development in Mindanao will serve to ensure that this upward trajectory continues,” he said.
The Commission on Election’s declared that the BOL had been ratified with 1,540,017 residents voting in favor of ratification and only 198,750 voting against it.
The new region will be composed of the five provinces currently comprising the ARMM, as well as Cotabato City.
A second round of the plebiscite on Feb. 6 will determine whether the BARMM would still be expanded.
Senators expressed outrage at the bombing of a Catholic church in Jolo, Sulu, Sunday.
Senator Francis Pangilinan expressed hope that the violence would not derail efforts at peace following the ratification of the BOL.
“Let us not be distracted and defeated by warmongers and violent elements in our midst. An immediate arrest and prosecution of the perpetrators will give justice to the victims and send a strong message that this government will not allow the rule of violence to triumph,” Pangilinan said
He said the incident is also a challenge for the government to show what martial law in Mindanao can do to address these attacks.
“We have come such a long way in our quest to realize the peace we have long desired for Muslim Mindanao. Let’s not allow it to be derailed this time,” he said.
Senator Nancy Binay said she is one with the people of Mindanao and the whole nation in condemning the bomb attack, which was staged during Sunday mass.
“It is quite saddening that while there are initiatives to finally end the conflict to have permanent peace, there are also those who continue to terrorize and find ways to derail and impair the gains for peace,” she said.
Senator Richard Gordon, chairman of the Philippine Red Cross, said all its chapters were on full alert even as two staff members were injured in the attack.
“Stay safe and let us all do our duty,” he said.
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