3,000 Bataraza residents rally against BJE

By Cheryl A. Galili

IT WAS hot and humid, dusty and rough even, but nothing stopped Mayor Abraham Ibba, provincial government officials, and more than 3,000 residents of Bataraza from marching and staging a mass protest against their proposed inclusion in the controversial Bangsamoro Juridical Entity (BJE) that was supposed to be established by a memorandum of agreement on ancestral domain (MOA-AD).

The protesters carried banners, placards and streamers with tough slogans and raised their fists around barangay Marangas in the poblacion to the municipal gymnasium to show strong dislike against the BJE. They represented the town’s 22 barangays.

Ibba said he is opposed to the BJE because the residents of Bataraza are already contented living in peace in Palawan. He, who originally hails from Sulu, explained that he liked life in the province, a reason why he chose to live and lead as mayor here.

“Our position is clear, we oppose our inclusion in the BJE,” Ibba said. During the whole rally, Vice Mayor Antonio Sadongdong and municipal councilors Merivic Roxas, Kennedy Jaafar, Marlen Gamo, Marivic Roxas, Jane Usop, Carlito rioveros, Armin Saiyo, Hadjis Asgale Jr., Sangguniang Kabataan and barangay officials, stood behind him to demonstrate support.

Bataraza, a second class municipality in the province of Palawan, was named after Datu Bataraza Narrazid, a locally influential Muslim chieftain and father of the town’s first mayor and former mayor of Brooke’s Point, the late Datu Sapiodin Narrazid. It was part of the municipality of Brooke’s Point until 1964.

The municipality, with 41,458 people in 8,658 households, according to 2000 census, thrives on farming, fishing and nickel mining and processing.

Ibba called on the protesters and residents not to believe those who go around asking them to say yes to the inclusion of Bataraza to the BJE in exchange for top and high-paying positions when it is already established. He said this is not true and just a modus operandi.

Sadongdong also said the municipal council is not in favor of the BJE because it will not do Bataraza any good. He said that if the MILF is serious in its desire for peace to overcome Mindanao, why would its leadership buckle in the face of challenges that are confronting the MOA-AD?

His explanation cited the attacks in villages of the MILF in North Cotabato led by Abdurahman Macapaar, alias Bravo, and Ombra Kato, shortly after the Supreme Court (SC) issued a temporary restraining order on August 4.

Thousands of civilians have fled North Cotabato, while 48 government troops, including an army colonel, and civilians were killed in just two weeks.

If the MILF is truthful in its wish for peace, the municipal government officials of Bataraza said they should have placed restraint on themselves not to attack innocent people.

The provincial government, on the other hand, was represented by Vice Governor David A. Ponce de Leon and board members Cipriano Barroma and Ernesto Llacuna.

Ponce de Leon informed the protesters that the Sangguniang Panlalawigan has passed a resolution to oppose the inclusion of Bataraza and Balabac in the BJE as it is a clear violation of the Constitution.

“Let us all be united, let’s speak as one people and say no again, no again to the inclusion of Palawan to the Bangsamoro Juridical Entity,” he said.

Bataraza resident and barangay Ocayan councilor Bernard Calago said he joined the rally not because he was forced but because he also does not want it to be part of the BJE.

He said he does not want the kind of leadership that the MILF has on its people. That at a slight problem, it would choose to resolve it by using armed conflict.(PalawanTimes)

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