Cardinal Orlando Quevedo of Cotabato is calling on Christians to support the proposed creation of an autonomous Muslim region in the southern Philippines, saying it will address "historical injustices" committed against the people of Mindanao. He said it was unfortunate that many Christians in the region want to reject the law that aims to facilitate the creation of a new political entity for the Moro people. A plebiscite is scheduled in Mindanao on Jan. 21 to ratify the Bangsamoro Organic Law
that expands the present Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao. The law, signed by President Rodrigo Duterte in July last year, will give the region greater fiscal autonomy, and a stronger regional government, parliament, and justice system. The region will comprise the provinces of Tawi-Tawi, Sulu, Basilan, Maguindanao, and Lanao del Sur. To be added to the region are six towns in Lanao del Norte province, 39 villages in Cotabato province, as well as the cities of Isabela and Cotabato
, subject to the approval of voters in these areas in the referendum. While he supports the creation of the new region, Cardinal Quevedo said most Christians in Mindanao are against the proposal because of "deep bias" and "general prejudices" against Muslims. He said there was nothing for them to be afraid of as the creation of a region for the Moro people would restore their identity, territory and sovereignty. He noted that instead of claiming the whole of Mindanao, the Moro people "are to have some self-determination in the core territory of the present [autonomous region]." Cardinal Quevedo also said that the rebel group, the Moro Islamic Liberation Front,
has been discussing with Christians on the establishment of "settler communities" for non-Muslims in the proposed region. The cardinal, who will retire as a voting member of the College of Cardinals in March, expects the Muslim population to support the creation of the new region. He said he is encouraging people to "vote based on informed choice on the merits and demerits of the Bangsamoro Organic Law."