WHILE the rest of the country has to wait until May 13 to get their voices heard on the ballot.
This Monday (January 21), the current constituent areas of Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao (ARMM), alongside Isabela City and Cotabato City will cast their ballots that will shape their better destiny – the ratification of Bangsamoro Organic Law (BOL).
This date will be the first of the two dates of decision — the other being on February 6 for a handful of barangays outside ARMM listed in the BOL, for their inclusion. The provinces affected (Lanao del Norte and North Cotabato) on the second date will have their own vote if they consent their local government units’ secession to join the new region.
That being said, this may both overhaul the governance and expand the 29-year-old sole autonomous region in the country.
Before tackling the current situation, let’s look back on the brief history behind the struggle of self-determination of Muslim Mindanaoans.
The Brief Road to Muslim Mindanao’s Self-Determination
The Moros have resisted against colonizers for centuries. Since the American colonial government, it pursued a policy of intra-ethnic migration of Christian Filipinos to Mindanao, which leads to exploitation of their resources, poverty and hopelessness for Moro people.
Perhaps, the contemporary narrative (the Moro insurgency) happened half a century ago with the exposition of the Jabidah massacre in Congress. The Moro rebels wanted to establish a Bangsamoro nation through the force of arms.
As the 1970s came, hostilities between the government forces and the rebels have led then-President Ferdinand Marcos to issue a proclamation forming an autonomous region but it was rejected by plebiscite. The fighting continued to ensue.
Formation of ARMM
After his dictatorship, the 1987 Constitution was ratified, guaranteeing the Muslim Mindanao and Cordillerans autonomy as long as their respective plebiscites are in favor.
On November 6, 1990, only the ARMM was inaugurated, making the only region in the country to have its own government.
In 2001, the region expanded with Basilan (sans Isabela City) and Marawi City joining the fray. From 2006-2008, Shariff Kabunsuan was carved out of Maguindanao, the original constituent province, until the Supreme Court in Padre Faura voided its creation.
It was 2012; President Noynoy Aquino admitted that ARMM, formed during his mother’s time, a “failed experiment.”
Thus, the peace talks between the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) and the Philippine Government took place in October in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. After 32 series of talks for nine years, the Framework was signed by Marvic Leonen (representing the Government, which in turn rewarded as an associate justice of the Supreme Court) and MILF counterpart Mohagher Iqbal.
Two years later, the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro (CAB) was signed and by September 2014, the draft Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) from the Bangsamoro Transition Commission (BTC) was handed to Congress.
Then, Mamasapano came.
On January 25, 2015, 44 officers from the PNP Special Action Force gave their lives up to fight against suspected and profiled perpetrators, particularly Marwan and Basit Usman. Due to his indirect involvement, it suffered the nadir of his presidency, the path of the peace process lost public support and the BBL was killed.
This is where Rodrigo Duterte, the first Mindanaoan president, stepped in and revived the shattered dream due to the complicated frustrations of his home island group.
They believed that voting for him would unify and reconcile from the years of their frustrations, electoral disenfranchisement and burdensome tag as the highest poverty in the region.
It was supposed to be signed on the day of his third State of Nation Address last July 23, 2018, but it failed to ratify on time — drawing up the dramatic coup in House leadership yielding former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo the speakership.
Nonetheless, President Duterte formally signed Republic Act 11054 three days later.
The changes in BOL
As the name implies, the organization of governance would change.
Here are few salient points found under BOL, differing than ARMM:
- EXECUTIVE: The Regional Governor, who serves as both the head of state and head of government of ARMM will split between the Wali (state) and the Chief Minister (government) — similar to most parliamentary systems.
- LEGISLATIVE: The Regional Legislative Assembly, containing 24 current members, will expand as the Bangsamoro Parliament with 80 members.
- FISCAL AUTONOMY: Instead of dependency from the national government, they will have an automatic allocation of the annual block grant equivalent of 5% of net internal revenue. In terms of share in inland revenue, the share of the imposition on natural resources will increase its share to 75% from the current 70%.
Despite the continuing pursuance of the dream, questions of constitutionality of the BOL were surfaced and but the Supreme Court has to decide the date of the oral arguments. Thus, it’s safe to say that the plebiscite will be at all systems go.
Come Monday and on February 6, the voters in the current ARMM will receive a ballot containing one full question and it must be written with either a “YES” or a “NO.” The sole City of Isabela and the rest of barangays included in the petition will be asked for their admission.
That being said, it will definitely be a historic moment for the country and for its people. In addition, it will set a bigger picture of federalism.
For those who are not involved with this plebiscite, we would invite you to answer our improvement survey here.
Photo courtesy of Flickr and Inquirer.net