ZAMBOANGA -- An official of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) expressed optimism that Basilan province’s constituents will ratify the Bangsamoro Organic Law (BOL) in the plebiscite which will be held on January 21.

ARMM Regional Governor Mujiv Hataman expressed his optimism during the Interfaith Dialogue on the BOL held in Isabela City, Basilan on Thursday (December 27).

The city, which is the administrative capital of the province, is however not part of the ARMM but is listed in the BOL in its to be-created Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM) if majority of the voters will opt for inclusion.

At present, Isabela City is part of the Zamboanga Peninsula Region.

“I urge the people of Isabela to vote “Yes” so as not to be left behind in the future development of Basilan. The BOL will provide much more funds to the autonomous region than ARMM had enjoyed, and Isabela’s economy will benefit more than if it will remain in the Zamboanga region, he said in a radio interview during the interfaith dialogue. “It will not look good for Isabela to continue to stay out of the autonomous region,” he said.

Hataman is a resident of Basilan and is running for provincial governor in the coming local mid-term elections.

“This dialogue is concentrating on Isabela with the aim of correcting the misperceptions of its residents especially the Christians about the BOL,” Hataman added, in an interview by Radio Mindanao Network.

Hataman said there are many Christian communities in the rest of Basilan that have existed under the ARMM and none of them were subjected to discrimination or oppression.

The morning-long interfaith dialogue, which was held at the Basilan National High School gymnasium, concentrated its information dissemination on Isabela.

Aside from Hataman, it was also attended by newly-appointed Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process Ret. Lt. Gen. Carlito Galvez Jr.; Cardinal Orlando Quevedo, Archbishop Emeritus of Cotabato; Mohagher Iqbal, chairman of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front Implementing Peace Panel; Bagsamoro Transition Commissioner Susana Anayati; and Dr. Aboulkhair Tarason, Chairman of the Basilan Ulama Supreme Council.

Galvez told the thousands who attended the forum that the BOL is the “culmination of our efforts to give our Moro brothers and sisters the opportunity to take ownership of the landmark measure and finally achieve our dream of genuine and meaningful self-governance.”

Last December 21, the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process (OPAPP) entered into an agreement with the Commission on Elections (Comelec) and the Bangsamoro Transition Commission (BTC) for the conduct of an information campaign on the plebiscite.

BTC Chairman Ghazali Jaafar, Peace Secretary Galvez and Commissioner Al A. Parreño, commissioner-in-charge of the Committee on the Bangsamoro Plebiscite signed the memorandum of agreement on behalf of their respective offices.

In a press statement, MILF chairman Al Haj Murad Ebrahim said the information drive period commenced on Dec. 7 and will end on Jan. 19, or two days before the plebiscite day.

“A vote for Yes will be for justice, peace, and progress while a vote for No will be a vote for uncertainty,” he said.

The MILF leader urged everyone to “discern and exercise wisdom to make the right decision. The BOL is not an ordinary piece of legislation. . .It is a good law which we can use to start establishing a good place for our peoples to live in, free from fear, hunger and oppression”. (PNA)