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Basic or Organic Law for the Autonomous Region of Bansangmoro of Mindanao. Whichever is

acceptable to the governing body of the Autonomous Region and imposed by national

government should be rendered constitutional.


The adaptation of Law is the main concern of both the MNLF and MILF and other factions of

the region. Whether the governing body of the Autonomous Region prefers the law that is

conducive to the life style and religious belief of the people in the region is also the main concern

of the national government. However, the striking point of the implementation of the BBL or the

BOL is, whether there will be unification of the different factions in the region as the leaders of

each group wanted to grab the highest position of the governing body. Somehow, obtaining peace

in the region still remain lingering in the minds of the leaders of both the Autonomous Region

and the national government thus creating an obstacle to make the dreams of Autonomous

Region come true.


Metro Manila (CNN Philippines) — In a historic move, President Rodrigo Duterte signed the

Bangsamoro Organic Law (BOL), creating the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim

Mindanao, home to minority Muslims fighting for self-determination in the predominantly

Roman Catholic Philippines. During a speech in Zamboanga City on July 26, the President said

he had signed the new law. Duterte, the first Philippine President who hails from the South,

promised to help the Moro people resolve their grievances, many of which stem from disputes on

ancestral land and decades of neglect. But he is just the latest in a string of leaders to attempt to

put an end to decades of conflict in the troubled region. Numerous administrations have

conducted peace negotiations with rebel groups such as the Moro National Liberation Front

(MNLF) and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), resulting in multiple versions of the

proposed law, which was earlier called Bangsamoro Basic Law.

What is the Bangsamoro Organic Law and why do we need one?

The Bangsamoro Organic Law, now officially called the Organic Law for the Bangsamoro

Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (OLBARMM), is the result of decades-long peace

negotiations between the rebel groups in Mindanao, mainly the MILF, and the Philippine

Government. The OLBARMM abolishes the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao

(ARMM), established in 1989 through Republic Act No. 6734 and strengthened in 2001 through

Republic Act No. 9054. Officials have earlier called the ARMM a failure, marred by corruption

and mismanagement. The new law then creates the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim

Mindanao (BARMM), or simply the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region.

University of the Philippines Islamic law and politics professor Jamel Cayamodin said the

Bangsamoro law is designed to address the grievances, sentiments, and demands of Muslims in

the region. "When you talk about the BBL, it's the advocacy of every Muslim… For the past

years, since martial law, the Muslims have been asking for self-determination," Cayamodin said.

He added the MILF previously called for total independence when under the helm of its founder

Salamat Hashim. When Hashim died in 2003, the rebel group toned down its demands and

instead lobbied for a truly autonomous region. Cayamodin said provinces in the ARMM are

consistently among the poorest sectors of the country, mainly due to corrupt and inefficient

government officials. Clan wars or Rido were also prevalent in the region.

Road to peace in Mindanao: The Bangsamoro Organic Law

In 2011, Malacañang said former President Benigno Aquino III considers the ARMM a "failed

experiment." After multiple rounds of talks that spanned almost a decade, the government and

the MILF signed the Framework Agreement on the Bangsamoro (FAB) in 2012.

In 2014, the two parties signed the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro (CAB), which

incorporated the FAB and annexes on transitional arrangements, wealth, power-sharing, and

water territories. It served as the basis of the draft BBL. Several versions of the BBL have been

proposed by lawmakers, including the first version submitted by Aquino to Congress in 2014. In

2015, a House committee approved the draft and renamed it the Basic Law for the Bangsamoro

Autonomous Region. The Senate, meanwhile, passed its version of the bill and renamed it the

Bangsamoro Autonomous Region Law. While there were efforts to pass the BBL during the
Aquino administration, the length and complexity of the bill led the Senate to temporarily defer

its proceedings. The 16th Congress eventually failed to pass the measure before it adjourned.

The OLBARMM - the latest version of the BBL passed during the Duterte administration -

reconciles versions of the proposed measure acceptable to both the government and the rebel

groups. MILF Vice Chairman Ghazali Jaafar, who also chairs the Bangsamoro Transition

Commission (BTC) that created the first draft of the BBL, earlier said they will not accept an

autonomy that is equal to or less than the ARMM, which was the result of peace deals between

the government and the MNLF.

How will the OLBARMM quell the rebellion in Mindanao?

In the peace deal that led to the creation of CAB in 2014, the MILF promised to decommission

its troops and end the decades-long rebellion once the national government delivers its

commitment of a new Bangsamoro region. The MILF will then create its own political party to

be involved in the governance of the new entity. Jaafar said they are satisfied with the version

approved by the bicameral conference committee. "Satisfied kami, maganda po 'yung proceeding

ng both Senate and House of Representatives. Doon sa provisions ng Bangsamoro Organic Law,

more or less, ang gusto (naming) mapasama ay napasama sa provisions," Jaafar said.

[Translation: We are satisfied, as there were good proceedings in both Senate and House of

Representatives. The provisions we want were more or less included in the Bangsamoro Organic

Law.] He added the MILF will work with the MNLF to achieve a unified government in the

region. "Hanggang ngayon, nakakausap ko 'yung prominent leaders ng MNLF in Davao. At sa

pag-uusap naming ito, hindi nila nasabi sa akin na hindi sila pabor sa BBL. Pabor sila sa BBL,"

Jaafar said. "Natitiyak ko naman na tutulong sila, at hindi sila sasalungat. After all, itong
gobyerno na ito ay inclusive to everyone." The MILF is a breakaway group of the MNLF. The

establishment of the ARMM is the result of negotiations between the government and the MNLF.

"Hindi po ito gobyerno ng MILF o MNLF. Ito po ay gobyerno ng lahat ng tao na nandoon," he

added. [Translation: Until now, I still get to talk to prominent leaders of MNLF in Davao. In all

our conversations, they never told me they were against BBL. They are for BBL. I am sure they

will help and will not oppose. After all, this government is inclusive to everyone. This is not a

government of the MILF or MNLF. This is a government of all the people residing there.]

What are the differences between the ARMM and the BARMM?

Political Structure and Justice System

While the ARMM has a unitary form of government, the BARMM will have a parliamentary-

democratic one. This means that the legislative and executive bodies in the ARMM are

independent, while those in the BARMM are more closely related and empowered to enact its

own laws. In the ARMM, the residents elect their regional governor and vice governor. The

regional governor has his own Cabinet and advisory council. The legislative power lies with the

regional legislative assembly, whose 24 members are also elected by the people.

In the BARMM, the residents will elect an 80-member parliament representing different parties,

districts, and sectors, including indigenous peoples. The members of the parliament will then

elect a chief minister and two deputy chief ministers among themselves. The chief minister shall

also appoint members of his Cabinet. For the judiciary, both autonomous regions give Shari'ah

courts jurisdiction over cases exclusively involving Muslims in the region. The OLBARMM

gives the Supreme Court the authority to grant the incumbent Shari'ah District and Court judges
who are not regular members of the Philippine Bar a period to qualify. Tribal laws will still apply

to disputes of indigenous peoples within the region.

Fiscal autonomy and special development fund

Regional government officials under the ARMM must justify their funding before the Congress

like other agencies. This resulted in the dependency of the supposed autonomous region on the

national government for its annual budget. Meanwhile, the BARMM will have an automatic

allocation of the annual block grant, equivalent to five percent of the net national internal

revenue of the Bureau of Internal Revenue and the

Bureau of Customs.

The region's share in government revenue taxes, fees, charges, and taxes imposed on natural

resources will increase to 75 percent from the current 70 percent. The national government will

also allocate the Bangsamoro P5 billion annually for a period of ten years, which will be used for

the rehabilitation of conflict-affected areas.


The ARMM covers the provinces of Basilan, Lanao del Sur, Maguindanao, Sulu, and Tawi-Tawi.

The same provinces also comprise the BARMM. However, a plebiscite still has to determine if

39 barangays in North Cotabato, six municipalities in Lanao del Norte, and the cities of Cotabato

in Maguindanao and Isabela in Basilan will be included in the Bangsamoro territory. The

plebiscite will be held within three to five months after Duterte signs the law.
Lanao del Norte and North Cotabato will also have to vote as provinces if they are willing to let

go of their towns and barangays to join the Bangsamoro. Contiguous areas may also be included

in the BARMM if there is a local government resolution or a petition where at least 10 percent of

registered voters seek to join the plebiscite. For territorial waters, existing laws define only

municipal waters nationwide, including those in ARMM. These cover 15 kilometers from the

low-water mark of coasts that are part of the territory. The Organic Law, meanwhile, introduces

regional waters for the BARMM extending up to 19 kilometers from the low-water mark.

Inland waters

According to the administrative code of the ARMM, inland bodies of water in the region like

Lake Lanao remain an "integral part of the national territory" of the country.

For the BARMM, all inland waters will be preserved and managed by the Bangsamoro

government. However, those that are utilized for energy in areas outside the BARMM will be co-

managed by the Bangsamoro government and the Department of Energy.

All government revenues from the development and usage of natural resources within the

BARMM will go to the Bangsamoro government, but revenues from fossil fuels and uranium

will be equally shared with the national government.

Defense and security

Like the ARMM, the national government will be responsible for the defense and security of the

BARMM. The Philippine National Police will also organize, maintain, and supervise a Police

Regional Office to enforce the law. Members of the MNLF and MILF may be admitted to the
police force. The qualifications for age, height, and educational attainment may be waived if

availed within five years after the ratification of the OLBARMM. Recruits from the two rebel

groups must fulfill the requirement on educational attainment within 15 years.

Bangsamoro Identity

Republic Act 9054, which strengthened the ARMM, provided an all-encompassing definition of

the Bangsamoro people. Section 3(b), Article X of the law states that they are "citizens who are

believers in Islam and who have retained some or all of their own social, economic, cultural, and

political institutions." The OLBARMM, meanwhile, recognizes and retains the historical and

geographical identity of the Bangsamoro people. Section 1, Article II of the Organic Law states

that Bangsamoro People are "those who, at the advent of the Spanish colonization, were

considered natives or original inhabitants of Mindanao and the Sulu archipelago and its adjacent

islands, whether of mixed or of full blood," including their spouses and descendants.

The transition from ARMM to BARMM will take place after the Commission on Elections holds

a plebiscite, ratifying the latter. President Duterte will then appoint 80 members to the

Bangsamoro Transition Authority (BTA), which automatically includes the incumbent officials

of the Regional Government. There must also be representatives for non-Moro indigenous

communities, youth, women, settler communities, traditional leaders, and other sectors. Duterte

will also appoint an interim Chief Minister among the BTA members, who will then organize an

interim Cabinet. Government personnel in education, health, and social welfare agencies will be

retained.during this time. The BTA will hold legislative and executive powers and is considered
the Bangsamoro government during the transition. The first local elections will be held in 2022.

The BTA will be dissolved once elected officials assume office. "When you talk about the BBL,

it's the advocacy of every Muslim… For the past years, since martial law, the Muslims have been

asking for self-determination." — Professor Jamel Cayamodin

One of the major roadblocks faced by all versions of the BBL is constitutionality. In 2008, the

Supreme Court declared the Memorandum of Agreement on the Ancestral Domain (MOA-AD)

unconstitutional due to the failure of the government and the MILF to engage and consult the

affected communities. The MOA-AD proposed the creation of an autonomous political region in

Mindanao with its own police, military, and judicial systems. However, lawmakers and the BTC

conducted several consultations with various communities for the OLBARMM. House Majority

Floor Leader Rodolfo Fariñas said they even changed the wording of the law from a "basic law"

to an "organic law" to adhere to the Constitution. He added the draft measure originally proposed

for the new entity to be referred as the Bangsamoro, but it was changed to Bangsamoro

Autonomous Region to make it "very clear" that it is an autonomous region of the Philippines.

However, Fariñas said lawmakers still welcome questions of constitutionality on the

OLBARMM, even if it is brought up to the Supreme Court. "Of course, that's their right. And we

want them to bring it [up so] it will pass the test of constitutionality," Fariñas said. The

Bangsamoro government will have an asymmetrical relationship with the national government,

as the BARMM will have more autonomy than other regions in the country. While the national

government will retain powers over constitutional and national matters such as foreign affairs

and defense, the Bangsamoro government will have exclusive powers over some areas including
budgeting, administration of justice, agriculture, customary laws, creation of sources of revenue,

disaster risk reduction and management, economic zones, ancestral domain, grants and

donations, human rights, local government units, public works, social services, tourism, and

trade and industry. Various intergovernmental bodies will also be created to improve relations

and resolve issues between the national and Bangsamoro governments. These bodies include the

Philippine Congress-Bangsamoro Parliament Forum, the Fiscal Policy Board, the Joint Body for

Zones of Joint Cooperation, the Infrastructure Development Board, the Energy Board, and the

Bangsamoro Sustainable Development Board.


At the heart of the Mindanao peace process which gave birth to the BOL is

the struggle of the Bangsamoro people to assert their right to self-

determination. This assertion, however, tends to be limited by the language

of lawmaking. And while their assertion is solid in the language of history

that predates the Philippines, the language used in legislation is the

language of the Philippine Constitution.The BOL is drafted to affirm the

Bangsamoro’s right to self-determination through legislation, as it seeks to

address decades, if not centuries, of historical injustices committed against

the Bangsamoro people. Bangsamoro Organic Law. However, the

language of the new organic law seems to suggest dilution instead of

affirmation. “Right to self-determination” has been edited to the “right to

chart their political future through a democratic process that will secure

their identity and posterity,” while the words “asymmetrical political

relationship” and “parity of esteem,” both of which were also in the 2014

draft of the said law, have been deleted entirely. But beyond technicalities,

the more striking change is seen in terms of the language of ownership.

While all final drafts by the Bangsamoro Transition Commission, the House

of Representatives, and the Senate clearly state whose voice is embodied

by the then proposed legislation — “We, the Bangsamoro People” — the

ratified BOL takes on a different tone: “In recognition of the aspirations of

the Bangsamoro people and other inhabitants in the autonomous region in

Muslim Mindanao, the Filipino people, by the act of the Congress of the

Philippines, do hereby ordain and promulgate this Organic Law.” The law

shifts from a language of ownership that says “ours” to a language of

distinction that says “theirs.” In the same way the Bangsamoro is displaced

from the lands of their ancestors, they are also displaced in the language of

the law.


To implement whether the BBL or the BOL to be adapted by the Autonomous Region is up to the

Congress (Senate and House of Representatives). Total disarmament of the different rebel

factions should be the most and mandatory. This is the first step towards attaining peace in the

region. Constitutionality of the adapted law of the Autonomous Region should be considered as

the most vital aspect. The executive and the judicial branches of the government of Autonomous

Region should be patterned with the format of the national government. Which is the democratic