I have mixed emotions about it. I was surprised because I haven’t heard about the issue in the past days, considering my complete attendance in front of the television during the Filipino News every morning in SBS-Australia. I am happy because the MOA has been restrained. I am sad when I realized that the GRP’s peace-negotiating panel hasn’t consulted nor conducted public hearings with the constituents of the affected provinces (North Cotabato, Lanao del Norte, Sultan Kudarat, Palawan) and city (Zamboanga City) before composing this agreement. I am scared about the future of my province should this plan be pursued. I am worried about the future of my country should this agreement be upheld.
I was only 10 years old when ARMM was established. What has been left in my memory at this moment is the plebiscite that was conducted where the voters in my hometown were given the chance to write YES or NO on their powerful ballots, as an answer to the question whether they wanted their province to be included in the autonomous government or not. Majority voted for NO in my province (North Cotabato).
Twelve days before my 22nd birthday in 2001, the same opposing note was heard from 90.98% of the electorate of North Cotabato after the conclusion of the ARMM inclusion/expansion referendum. I wasn’t in my hometown that time because it’s the first day of my 3 days veterinary licensure exam in Manila, but my cry would be the same had my fate allowed me to cast my powerful vote that day!
This year, twenty-two days before I turn 29, the people in North Cotabato has again started expressing their protest against the move of the Philippine government to put them under the governance of the ARMM. During this late Australian winter, I also wore my red jumper in the poultry farm this morning to join my fellow Cotabatenos back home as they demonstrate their courage amidst this crisis and as they show their anger against this careless decision of the GRP Peace Panel.
I oppose because I care. I oppose because I believe that the secret MOA on Ancestral Domain is not the ultimate solution to attain the genuine peace for Mindanao that we’ve been seeking for ages. I oppose because I believe that the secret MOA on Ancestral Domain is not the ultimate solution to achieve the real economic progress for Mindanao that we’ve been waiting for decades.
I believe that the ARMM will now take this as a challenge. I believe that the ARMM will now immediately start to show to the world that its power can diffuse genuine peace that will originate from the 5 provinces and a city under the present rule. I believe that the ARMM will now immediately start to show to the world that its authority can bring real economic progress that will originate from the 5 provinces and a city under the present rule.
As soon as the ARMM can accomplish these two important things, I will immediately withdraw my protest. Promise.