Republic Act No. 11055 or otherwise known as the “Organic Law of the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao” or BOL was approved by President Rodrigo Duterte on July 27, 2018. This law creates the new Bangsamoro government, namely the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM). This new political entity takes parliamentary form of government and will implement Shariah laws. The BOL is the realization of the decades-long negotiations between the Government of the Philippines (GPH) and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF). It recognizes the legitimate rights to self-governance and self-determination of the Bangsamoro. This law also recognizes the rights of non-Moro living within the BARMM.
In a plebiscite conducted on January 21 and February 6, 2019, BOL was ratified by: (1) provinces of Basilan, Sulu, Tawi-tawi, Maguindanao and Lanao del Sur, (2) Cities of Marawi, Lamitan and Cotabato, and (3) Sixty-three barangays within 6 municipalities of North Cotabato. These aforementioned places became the geographical scope of the BARMM (Fernandez, 2019).
The transition of Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) to BARMM started after said ratification. As a result, ARMM was deemed abolished and all powers, functions, assets, capital, records, funds, equipment and facilities of the ARMM were transferred to BARMM. However, the elected incumbent officials of ARMM and the Bangsamoro Transition Commission (BTC) acted as the caretakers of the administration of the region until the constitution of the Bangsamoro Transition Authority (BTA) (Bangsamoro Transition Authority, 2019).
The BTA, which is composed of eighty members appointed by the President, is an interim government of the BARMM tasked to temporarily govern BARMM for three years or until its first ever regular election that is to be conducted on year 2022. The inauguration of the 80 BTA members was conducted on June 30, 2019. The Interim Cabinet, headed by Chief Minister Ahod Ebrahim “Murad” Al Haj, is composed of fifteen (15) primary ministers with sub-offices (Ibid).
An allocation in the amount P30-billion budget was taken from P3.7-trillion national budget of 2019 to serve as the initial funding for the BARMM. This fund, which was initially allocated for the ARMM, is basically for the immediate implementation of development and rehabilitation projects especially in the war-torn and conflict-zone areas within the scope of BARMM (Fernandez, 2019).
Under the BOL, the BARMM will be given an annual block grant from the national government in the amount of 5 percent which is to be automatically appropriated in the national budget. In year 2020, the said block grant will come from the net national internal revenue tax collection and the net collection of Bureau of Customs in the last fiscal years. In addition to that, the revenue sources for the BARMM includes taxes, fees, charges and revenue shares from exploration of natural resources (Ibid).
Decommissioning Activity of MILF Combatants
For the Bangsamoro Government to be established, the decommissioning of MILF forces was a prerequisite. Decommissioning is the process of putting the firearms and weapons of the MILF combatants beyond their use and for making a smooth transition of said combatants to productive and fruitful civilian lives. This activity basically includes the implementation of Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) redeployment, preparatory work for policing in Bangsamoro and most importantly the Fire Arms’ control and management. Its purpose is for the reintegration and rehabilitation of the MILF combatants to the society. It has been said that this activity is included in the process in achieving the pursuit of sustainable livelihood and peaceful society (bangsamoro.gov.ph, 2019).
Part of the reintegration process is the giving of 100,000 pesos cash and a socio-economic assistance package to each of the decommissioned combatants. Their families will also get an estimated amount of 500,000 to 1,000,000 pesos of healthcare, assistance, scholarship, housing and livelihood projects from the government (Ibid).
On September 7, 2019, the decommissioning activity was participated by 1060 MILF combatants with their 920 weapons and 20 heavy weapons. Through disarmament, said weapons were surrendered to Independent Decommissioning Body (IDB). The IDB, which is tasked to oversee the decommissioning activity, is chaired by the Ambassador Fatih Ulusoy from Republic of Turkey with Vice-Chairman Mr. William Hovland from Government of Norway and International Expert Lieutenant Colonel Sherpor Nezam Bin Abdul Ghapor Brunei Darussalam. It also includes four local experts jointly nominated by both the Philippine government and MILF. This body conducts verification, registration, validation and inventory of weapons and firearms as well as the forces of MILF (Official Gazette, 2019). An estimated number of 12,000 or 30% of the 40,000 combatants are expected to be decommissioned until March 2020 (bangsamoro.gov.ph, 2019).
However, there are some who are skeptical and even perceive this move to be dangerous on the part of MILF on the ground that the national government is slowly stripping the MILF of its capacity to defend its people in case the peace deal would become a failure. But Bangsamoro Chief Minister Murad Ebrahim maintains that the decommissioning is a demonstration of MILF’s sincere and full commitment to the BOL. In addition to that, President Duterte assured the Bangsamoro not to be afraid as he stated that this government is theirs.
During the sixth full session of Bangsamoro Transition Authority held on June 25, 2019, Parliament Member Mussolini Lidasan enumerated the bills that are needed to be prioritized namely: the Bangsamoro Administrative Code, the Bangsamoro Revenue Code, the Bangsamoro Electoral Code, the Bangsamoro Local Government Code, the Bangsamoro Civil Service Code and the Bangsamoro Education Code. Steps are currently being taken to draft the Bangsamoro Local Government Code. With the first ever BARMM election to be held in year 2022, it is of utmost necessity that these laws be made for BARMM to be more stable as the new autonomous government (bangsamoro.gov.ph, 2019).
As to the areas outside the scope of BARMM, there is currently a bill being proposed in BTA Parliament authored by Parliament Member Atty. Maisara Dandamun-Latiph and Parliament Member Abdullah “Commander Bravo” G. Macapaar. The bill is known as the “Bangsamoro Communtities Outside Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao Act of 2019”. This will create the Office of Bangsamoro Communities Outside the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region (BCOBAR). Its mandate is to give assistance to Bangsamoro people residing outside the geographical scope of BARMM which will include the development and implementation of their economic, social and cultural being. It will also give powers to the BCOBAR Office in relation to its mandate such as to implement policies on Bangsamoro communites outside BARMM and to recommend the Chief Minister and other Ministries for effective implementation of its mandate and functions.
Petitions Re: Constitutionality of BOL
On matters of legality, a petition to declare the BOL unconstitutional was filed by the Philippine Constitutional Association (Philconsa), a non-stock, non-profit association primarily composed constitution experts and was founded by Former President Sergio. It contends, among others, that the following are contrary to the 1987 Constitution: (1) the creation of the BARMM in lieu of ARMM (2) the grant of legislative powers to Bangsamoro Parliament as well as the powers to enter into trade relations with foreign countries (Navallo, 2018).
On the other hand, earlier this year, Maguindanao Governor Esmael Mangundadatu and Mayor Freddie Mangundadatu in their Comment, asked the Supreme Court to dismiss said petition, arguing among others, that the majority’s overwhelming and unequivocal vote for the BOL’s ratification most definitely qualify for its liberal interpretation and that it is within the powers of Congress to enact the type of Bangsamoro Basic Law that the Congress deems it fit for the promotion of peace and development in Muslim areas in Mindanao (Ibid).
Unsurprisingly, notwithstanding all of the recent implementation of the law, there are still those who distrust, doubt and even question the BOL as it is not in reality an Islamic Law with genuine notion of self-governance and self-determination. Some say it is just the watered-down version of Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) while others say that the results will just be the same as that of ARMM or even worse. Despite the powers given to the Parliament and the rights granted to the Bangsamoro, it is still evident that the National Government has the moral ascendancy and supremacy over BARMM.
Another challenge posed against it, is that even before the BARMM can fully operate, a lot of misconceptions and misapprehensions of the law have emerged. The reason is, just like in the case of any other law, the inability to get hold of the law. Thus, it is essential especially for us, being the students of law, to read and understand the law as it affects not only the people under BARMM but the entire nation as a whole. Only then can we be able to actively participate for the proper implementation as well as the reform and development of this law. As what Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi said, “Good governance depends on ability to take responsibility by both the administration as well as [the] people”.
- Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao. (Sept. 6, 2019). 1060 MILF-BIAF Combatants to be Decommissioned on September 7. Retrieved from bangsamoro.gov.ph on Sept. 10, 2019.
- Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao. (June 26, 2019). BTA Holds 7th Regular Session. Retrieved from bangsamoro.gov.ph on Sept. 10, 2019.
- BangsamoroBBL. (2019). Road Map Towards the Creation of the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao. Retrieved from bangsamorobbl.com on Sept. 10, 2019.
- Fernandez, Butch. (April 22, 2019). P30-B Funding in 2019 Budget Assured for Bangsamoro. Retrieved from busnessmirror.com.ph on Sept. 10, 2019.
- Fernandez, Edwin. (July 9, 2019). Cotabato City, 63 Villages Placed Under BARMM. Retrieved from www.pna.gov.ph on Sept. 10, 2019
- Navalo, Mike. (Dec. 21, 2019). Constitutional Experts Warn Bangsamoro Law Will Destroy Country, Dismember Territories. Retrieved from news.abs-cbn on Sept. 10, 2019.
- Navalo, Mike. (Feb. 7, 2019). Mangundadatus Ask SC to Junk Petitions VS Bangsamoro Law. Retrieved from news.abs-cbn on Sept. 10, 2019.
- Official Gazette. (Jan. 30, 2015) Protocol on the Implementation of the Terms of Reference (TOR) of the Independent Decommissioning Body (IDB). Retrieved from www.officialgazette.gov.ph on Sept. 10, 2019