Mayor seeks respect for right to Bangsamoro exclusion

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MANILA, Dec. 2, 2014 — The mayor of the only town in Lanao del Sur with a majority Christian population expressed hopes his people’s choice to be excluded from the proposed Bangsamoro autonomy will be respected.

In an interview on Sunday, Wao Mayor Elvino Balicao revealed that majority of the townspeople, who are Christians from different denominations, believe Islamic rule inherent under a Muslim Mindanao political autonomy may affect their full religious freedom and expression as Christians.

Mohagher Iqbal (left) and Miriam Coronel-Ferrer, chief negotiators of the MILF and GPH, respectively, shake hands while holding a copy of the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro during its formal signing on March 28, 2014 in Malacañang. (Photo: OPAPP)

No consultation

Balicao also said Wao, a town predominantly Christian, was not consulted during the drafting of the proposed Bangsamoro autonomy.

A municipal plebiscite shall confirm the sentiments of Wao residents, he said, adding that these sentiments should deserve full respect.

“The barangays in favor of inclusion in the Bangsamoro can choose to embrace it even if it will mean shrinking the size of Wao’s territory,” Balicao said.

Covering a land area of 187.35 square miles, Wao is composed of 26 barangays, only eight of which are under a Muslim barangay chairman, he said.

“The eight barangays are 45 percent Christian,” Balicao pointed out.

Remaining an LGU

In response to the claim being made by some Moro figures on Wao, Balicao noted it was titled to Christian settlers during the time of Magsaysay and Quirino.

He made clear, however, that his “people do not oppose peace and development efforts in Mindanao nor the right of Muslim brothers to self-determination.”

What they seek is exclusion from the Bangsamoro autonomy, remaining a local government unit under the national government, Balicao said.

The Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao (ARMM), which the Bangsamoro is proposed to replace, should be given enough time to prove its full potential, instead of adopting another version of autonomy, he said.

The majority Christians in Wao initially demonstrated their call for exclusion in a peaceful rally during the signing of the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro on March 27 this year.

A letter expressing the same was also forwarded to the Senate, House of Representatives, and Office of the Presidential Adviser on Peace Process. (Oliver Samson/CBCPNews)

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