Bangsamoro Organic Law

The Turf’s Thoughts on ex-P-Noy’s Passing

Rest well, statesman.

AS YOU HAVE heard and confirmed from this morning, former President Benigno S. Aquino III has passed away; he was 61.

By now, this heartbreaking news has triggered a turning point — mostly, turning to a feeling of nostalgia — in dealing with the final year of his successor and what to do come May 9, 2022 (less than 11 months from now).

And I know, some of you remained indoctrinated to negate and disown him with all your hearts, minds and souls through the news feeds. You probably have demonized him by emphasizing his negative engagement during his tenure from the bus hostage in Manila to Mamasapano.

Let’s set straight about him amidst all of this. 

Former President Noynoy Aquino continued to enhance the growth of our economy after the Great Recession and put the Philippines brightly on the map as he persistently believed.

Noynoy may not have been a good legislator but as President, he signed significant, consequential pieces of legislation such as Reproductive Health Law, K-12 and the Cybercrime Prevention Act. He even signed a sin tax that imposed a levy on vices like his — cigarettes; which served as a precursor and model to other tax laws (like TRAIN and CREATE) now in force. He made a better peace process in Mindanao by replacing ARMM with the Bangsamoro Basic Law (now Bangsamoro Organic Law); he could’ve done it ahead of time had it not been for Mamasapano. He would have pushed the Freedom of Information Act — for fair and reasonable transparency in dealings with the government — but it always left out on every SONA he delivered. 

Speaking of SONA, his use of graphics — made by his social media team under his chief, Manuel L. Quezon III — was professional and awesome to behold. The Official Gazette on Facebook wouldn’t be the same without his team. 

Many of you have remarked on him for immaturity — primarily due to finger-pointing his predecessor for the faults that he had inherited. Unlike the ruling incumbent, he knew how to behave with other heads of states and governments and earned much respect from the international community. If you want proof, look at the time when we hosted APEC Summit on his final full calendar year (2015).

It was he who established the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases in 2014. It was intended to monitor and prevent, at that time, Ebola and MERS-CoV from entering our shores; it was successful and more respectable than the present composition and their current handling of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Lastly, if any positive attribution can we agree about him on, it’s about dealing the sovereignty in our territorial waters against a hegemonic, trying-hard superpower. He sent the claims to an international court and we won. The lesson from that is we must uphold it and go beyond.

During his six years, our news coverage was not as tumultuous as we have now. His spokespersons didn’t gaslight or spin every day so that Joseph Morong wouldn’t have a problem crunching bullet points with it. Given the environs of this blog, the national television industry under his watch was very peaceful: less intervention, no major player shutdown (that he didn’t like) and manageable dealing of chaos within and without the walls of the networks.

If you’re not convinced of what I’ve written, you would probably admit this: Your political worldviews and principles — no matter where you’re with him or against him back then — would not be formed and probably solidified without him.

Here at Timow’s Turf, I joined with the rest of the Filipino people in expressing sincere condolences to the Aquino family in these times.

The Filipino Decides 2019: If We Go Federal, Keep the National Legislature Bicameral

WHILE some barangays who are not part of the major January 21 plebiscite will cast their votes today on their inclusion in the now-ratified but not yet formally-inaugurated Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao.

I kept on pondering their present civic involvement during the national elections. I write it as a non-Moro.


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THE GAME OF TWELVE THRONES. Half of the Senate seats are up for grabs this election on May 13th.


Whenever someone hailed from the region runs for one of the coveted 12 seats in the Senate of the Philippines, they were always defeated.

Don’t get us wrong.

Under the game of the current Charter, a registered voter from ARMM contains the same individual voting power in casting one President, one Vice President, one party-list group and up to 12 senators as a non-ARMM voter. However, according to the 2015 Census, the region accounts for 3.74% of the national population (ranked 12th of 17) while in terms of the voting population, they ranked 14th of 17.

In 2013, a Manila Times report said in the Commission on Elections (COMELEC) report that an average Filipino cast 7 out of possible 12 candidates. An average voter from ARMM cast about 5 while in Metro Manila, they cast about 10.


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Santanina “Nina” Rasul is the first Filipino Muslim woman (and the most recent) to serve as a Senator of the Philippines from 1987 to 1995.


Factoring the variance of populations among the regions (aside that none of the provinces are in the top 10 vote-rich areas), the negative deviation, intimidation and free will of its voters (they don’t have influential religious leaders to command the solid/bloc vote), having a voice to represent their region in the Upper House is harder to achieve since Santanina Rasul left in 1995.

In other words, they were feeling, in essence, disenfranchised.

Perhaps, that’s the primary criticism of the current nationally-elected Senate in the eyes of constitutional reform advocates: It discourages voters of regions to give an equal voice or playing field as with others.

What’s their solution? They mulled for the abolition of the upper house or reform. But before they hastily do that, they should ask: “Why do we think we have a bicameral legislature?

The lower house was intended to represent a certain part of the population (constituency) while the upper house, as said on the tin, was intended to represent the wiser, elite part. Hence, the upper house is difficult to accede in their political ladder. If they have succeeded, they have an advantage — a springboard — toward eyeing the presidency.

In their normal business of legislative process, the legislation passed from the lower house are scrutinized in the upper chamber to avoid bad laws before it hands to the executive branch for his/her signature unless a veto is issued.

In federated nations, bicameralism is common as the upper house of their legislatures were meant to represent the subdividing units. However, not all subdividing units have equal representation. It could be under four types of composition:

  • Equal Treatment: Argentina (for 24 divisions, inclusive of its capital), Brazil (like Argentina for 27 divisions inclusive of their capital), Russia (for 85 diverse subjects) and the United States (for the 50 states but not its capital)
  • Per Division’s Status: Australia (12 for each state, 2 for each territory) and Switzerland (2 for each full canton, one for each half-canton)
  • By Degressive Proportion (determined by population): Germany and India
  • Hybrid: Belgium, Malaysia, Mexico and Pakistan

Canada’s Senate does not have an equal number of Senators per province despite having one per territory. Nigeria’s counterpart is almost perfect for equal treatment for 36 states with three Senators each but it added one more for their Capital Territory.

The method of choosing the representatives in the upper house is through direct election within their concerned regions, appointment by state legislatures or appointment by the head of state upon the advice of the Prime Minister. If the first method is to be used, that will depend on the number of seats to be elected and the electoral system to be employed.

With regard to their terms of office, it is stipulated on their own constitutions or its compatible law, if there is no explicit mention.

As the country’s governances shifts to federal, what would happen to our Senate?

In the five drafts of federalism up on the table, two versions keep the bicameral legislature: the Consultative Committee document and Resolution of Both Houses No. 15.

How did their drafts differ?

In the ConCom’s final draft, every federated region (in their case: 18 regions) must have two seats to be elected by its voters on their region. The Congressional Resolution, on the other hand, maintained the 24 seats to be elected nationally.

Although they both keep the presidential system over parliamentary, they will no longer employ a “midterm election” but the ConCom version is the clear winner based on this exhortation.

Of course, we cannot discount the dissidents on this version due to the maintenance of explicit equity restriction provisions or in toto due to loopholes that bring potential abuse.

That being said, if we will go federal, we should keep the national legislature — be it congressional or parliamentary — bicameral.

Change our mind.

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Photo courtesy of Manila Bulletin and UP Alumni Association

The Filipino Decides 2019: The Bangsamoro Plebiscite

WHILE the rest of the country has to wait until May 13 to get their voices heard on the ballot.


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The Office of the Bangsamoro People in Cotabato City is currently the seat of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM). (Photo courtesy of George Parrilla)


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.

Present foundations

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.


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The bamboo bridge in Brgy. Tukanalipao, Mamasapano will forever remember both the sacrifice and the tragedy of January 25, 2015.


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 the 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.

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Photo courtesy of Flickr and