Sultan Kudarat Protests Inclusion of Province in BJE

KIDAPAWAN CITY (MindaNews) — Sultan Kudarat has joined other areas in opposing moves to include his province in the proposed Bangsamoro Juridical Entity (BJE) with a rally today at the capitol compound in its capital town, Isulan.

The rally started at around 9 a.m. and was attended by Governor Teng Mangudadatu, employees of the Isulan Provincial Government, students, church leaders, including Cotabato Auxiliary Bishop Jose Colin Bagaforo, and other local government officials in Sultan Kudarat.

Mangudadatu said he is opposed to plans of including Sultan Kudarat in the proposed BJE.

His father, Rep. Pax Mangudadatu, was governor of Sultan Kudarat for three terms, until last year’s election. The elder Mangudadatu was a member of the government peace panel from 2003 until his gubernatorial term ended in 2007.

According to the Memorandum of Agreement on Ancestral Domain, the entire province will be included in the proposed BJE. Out of its 228 barangays (villages, according to the National Statistical Coordination Board) in 11 towns, 214 are listed under Category A while the remaining 14 are listed under Category B.

Category A has a total of 735 villages while Category B has 1,459 villages.

Category A areas are mostly predominantly Moro areas contiguous to the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) that will go through a plebiscite within one year from the signing of the MOA, whether or not they want to be part of the BJE while Category B “will be treated as ‘special intervention areas’ and will still be ‘subject to further negotiations” and will go through a plebiscite “not earlier than 25 years from the signing of the Comprehensive Compact,” to decide whether or not they want to be part of the BJE.

The Comprehensive Compact is the consolidation of all agreements on the three agenda items of the peace negotiations. The MOA on ancestral domain is the third agreement. The first two were on security and relief and rehabilitation .

A number of the areas listed are not Moro-dominated. For instance, portions of Columbio and Sen. Ninoy Aquino are predominantly Lumad. Other villages are predominantly setter.

The MOA was initialed on July 27 in Kuala Lumpur. It was stopped due to the issuance of a temporary restraining order (TRO) by the Supreme Court granting the petition of North Cotabato officials to restrain the executive department from signing the MOA.

Sultan Kudarat is a province in Southwestern Mindanao, under what is also known as Soccsksargen (South Cotabato-Cotabato City-Koronadal-Sultan Kudarat-General Santos-North Cotabato). Its capital is Isulan and its borders are Maguindanao and North Cotabato to the north, South Cotabato and Sarangani to the east.

The province has three coastal towns, including Kalamansig, Lebak, and Palembang, and inland towns, including Isulan, Bagumbayan, President Quirino, Senator Ninoy Aquino, eEsperanza, Columbio, and Lambayong.

Tacurong City, the most urbanized is considered to be the province’s commercial center. No village in Tacurong City is included in the proposed BJE.

Lambayong Mayor Ramon Abalos, president of the League of Municipalities in Mindanao who joined Mangudadatu in a rally today, urged government leaders to reconsider its position on ancestral domain.

Abalos said the inclusion of his town and the whole Sultan Kudarat province in the BJE came as a surprise to him.

Abalos said he never thought that while talks were ongoing between the government and the MILF, his town had been included as part of the ancestral domain of the rebel group.

“I have not read the document. I was just told about it. Even if I did, I will still say no to it. My people are saying no to it, too,” said Abalos in an interview.

Lambayong’s 26 villages are listed under Category A. Voters in the Category A areas will be asked within a year from the signing of the MOA if they want to be part of the BJE or not.

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