President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. has called on the military to support the peace process in the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM) and give the newly established regional government a chance to govern.
Addressing the soldiers of the 6th Infantry Division (ID) of the Philippine Army (PA) stationed at Camp Siongco in Sinsuat, Maguindanao, President Marcos said the government’s peace pact with Muslim secessionists is the way forward and achieving a peaceful and progressive region will benefit ordinary people.
“And because of the ongoing transition, the military’s mission will also change,” Marcos said, adding that he hopes to attain a period of lasting peace and progress in the strife-torn region.
“If we are able to do that, we are able to support [them]. They are still learning how to become a government. And we must give them a chance to learn how to become a government. We should help them,” he said.
The military’s new role, he said, is to support the peace. But he also warned of spoilers that could still threaten regional stability.
There are still extremist groups without ideology who resort to banditry and sowing chaos, he said.
“They no longer talk about religion and their ideology. They just engage in kidnapping activities and murder for hire,” Mr. Marcos added.
“You cannot let your guard down also. You have to stay vigilant and stay careful so that this peace process can happen. We will have to start again and talk to everybody again,” the President said.
“And if the military can keep the peace in their jurisdictions, it will be a big help to the peacekeeping process,” he added.
The President assured the Bangsamoro people of his administration’s unwavering commitment to the peace process and urged the regional government to pass crucial legislation that will institutionalize local governance and ensure the people’s welfare.
Before meeting soldiers in Maguindanao, the commander-in-chief was in Cotabato City for the inauguration of the Bangsamoro Transition Authority (BTA).
Meanwhile, Commission on Elections (Comelec) officials are hoping for a high voter turnout in the Maguindanao plebiscite scheduled on Saturday.
“We’ve already conducted two plebiscites, and we were successful in holding these activities. The last one was in Calaca (Batangas) where we had more than 56 percent voter turnout,” Commissioner Aimee Ferolino said in a press briefing Thursday afternoon.
“We hope if not higher, the same number of voters will participate in the Maguindanao plebiscite because we would like as many voters as we can to participate in this activity,” she added.
This is the third plebiscite to be held by the poll body in recent years.
Palawan remained as a single province after more than 172,000 residents rejected its division into three separate provinces in a plebiscite in March last year.
Meanwhile, the town of Calaca is now a component city of the province of Batangas after residents voted in favor of its cityhood in a plebiscite on Sept. 3.
Maguindanao has 818,790 registered voters in 508 barangays.
The plebiscite will determine the fate of Maguindanao’s division into two separate provinces — Maguindanao del Norte and Maguindanao del Sur.
In 2021, former President Rodrigo Duterte signed Republic Act No. 11550, which allowed the conduct of the plebiscite.