Proposed Bangsamoro law ratified, awaits President Duterte’s signature

DAVAO CITY (MindaNews / 24 July) —  The House of Representatives on Tuesday ratified the report of the Bicameral Conference Committee on the final version of the proposed Organic Law for the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao  (OLBARMM) which the Senate already ratified Monday morning.

President Rodrigo Duterte was supposed to have signed it into law on Monday in time for his third State of the Nation Address (SONA) but due to a leadership row, the House failed to ratify it.

“When the approved version is transmitted and received by my office — the law has been passed actually and I intend to — Give me 48 hours to sign it and ratify the law.Babasahin ko pa bago ko pipirmahan. Baka may isiningit kayo diyan na hindi maganda para sa — para sa ibang tao” (I will read it first before signing it. You may have inserted something that is not good for the other people), Duterte promised during his SONA.

President Rodrigo Roa Duterte does the thumbs up gesture while delivering his third State of the Nation Address (SONA) at the Joint Session of the 17th Congress at the Session Hall of the House of Representatives Complex in Constitution Hills, Quezon City on July 23, 2018. ROBINSON NIÑAL JR./PRESIDENTIAL PHOTO

It is not clear who he was referring to when he said “para sa ibang tao.”

The law will be ratified in a plebiscite in the proposed core territory of the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM) or Bangsamoro Autonomous Region

The OLBARMM or what is now being referred to as Bangsamoro Organic Law, is  supposed to be the enabling law of the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro (CAB) that government (GPH) and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) signed on March 27, 2014.

The Bangsamoro law will pave the way for the creation of a new autonomous political entity called the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM or Bangsamoro Autonomous Region), that will replace the 28-year old Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM).

The ARMM is deemed abolished upon the ratification of the law in a plebiscite that will be held likely in January 2019.

Duterte said Mindanao “pauses at the crossroads of history,” one road leading to harmony and peace, “the other, to war and human suffering.”

“Despite all that has been said (for) or against the Bangsamoro Organic Law by all sectoral groups, I make this solemn commitment that this administration will never deny our Muslim brothers and sisters the basic legal tools to chart their own destiny within the Constitutional framework of our country,” said the country’s 16th President and first Mindanawon to lead the nation.

The House’s ratification of the final version of the proposed law was the first legislative agenda under the new Speaker, Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo.

Its ratification and eventual signing by President Duterte comes a decade after the government (GPH), then under President Arroyo, and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) initialed a Memorandum of Agreement on Ancestral Domain (MOA-AD) whose formal signing on August 5, 2008 in Kuala Lumpur was aborted following a temporary restraining order issued by the Supreme Court which later declared it unconstitutional.

“We will need loads of understanding and patience to endure and overcome the birth pangs or pains of the new beginning,” Duterte said. “To me, war is not an option. We have been through the catastrophe in Marawi. We have seen the horror, the devastation, and the human toll and the displacement of both Christians and Muslims alike,” he added.

He vowed to ensure the ISIS or its allies “will never gain foothold in our country” but noted also that his administration welcomed the remnants of the ISIS-inspired groups in Marawi who “expressed their desire to be reintegrated into society” and “embarked on genuine efforts to embrace a peaceful, productive life for them.”

“We owe it to our fallen soldiers and police officers in Marawi and elsewhere to put an end to the bloodshed and seek the path of true peace — a peace that will last beyond this lifetime, and whose dividends our children will reap,” Duterte said.

President Rodrigo Roa Duterte, delivers his third State of the Nation Address (SONA) at the Joint Session of the 17th Congress in Quezon City on July 23, 2018. Also in the photo are Senate President Vicente Sotto III and House Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez. ROBINSON NIÑAL JR./PRESIDENTIAL PHOTO

Some 375,000 residents of Marawi and neighboring towns in Lanao del Sur were displaced by the five-month siege last year. The war claimed the lives of at least a  thousand combatants and civilians, destroyed a 250-hectare commercial and residential district comprising 24 of 96 barangays that a year later, still awaits rehabilitation.

The Marawi siege started on May 23, 2017 with the foiled arrest of the Abu Sayyaf’s Isnilon Hapilon in an apartment in Marawi City. Hapilon, who was killed along with Omar Maute of  the Maute Gorup on October 16, 2017, was reported to be the Emir off the Islamic State in Southeast Asia.

The failure in the implementation of the peace agreements between government and the Moro revolutionary groups — MILF and before that the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) — had earlier been cited as one of the factors contributing to violent extremism.

At the end of the two-day Kusog Mindanaw forum on federalism on November 30, 2016, leaders of Moro liberation fronts warned that a continued failure in implementing the peace agreements would be the rallying point of extremists in Mindanao.

“We, the MNLF and MILF, we will become irrelevant if our peace agreements will not be implemented and in fact that is the issue, the rallying point of the extremists in Mindanao.  They’re saying, ‘look at the MNLF and the MILF, their agreements have never been implemented. So there’s no point talking with this government who has violated peace agreements since time immemorial,’” said lawyer Randoph Parcasio, who represented the MNLF faction under founding chair Nur Misuari.

“Implement the peace agreements so that you will have MNLF and MILF who are now cooperating with government, to continue their being relevant,” he said.

Mohagher Iqbal, chair of the peace implementing panel of the MILF, said extremism “is part of human nature” and that even in schools, there are classmates who express extremist view. But violent extremism, he said, must be addressed.

He explained that “until and unless the historic injustices committed against the Moro people (are addressed), I think the extremist groups, the violent extremist groups would still multiply because they have so much reason to fight the government.”

But if  the historical injustices are addressed “by the passage of a good (Bangsamoro) law, then the MNLF, the MILF can be partners of government and we have both the moral and the legal authority to do it,” he said.  (Carolyn O. Arguillas / MindaNews)