In response to the criticism over the past decade or two that the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao has failed in its function of providing a stable self-governing region in the Philippines for the indigenous Muslim population or “Bangsamoro”, the government has been mulling over the possibility of supplanting the ARMM with a new region that had an even greater level of autonomy than before. During the administration of incumbent President Rodrigo Duterte that proposal was crystallized in a new Bangsamoro Organic Law, with he signed behind closed doors last July 26. However, such a momentous occasion calls for a ceremony, so a ceremonial signing is to be held today.
CNN Philippines reports that a formalized signing of the Bangsamaoro Organic Law (BOL) will take place this Monday, August 6 at the Malacañang Palace. President Rodrigo Duterte will of course be present, with representatives from the Moro Liberation Front (MILF) and Bangsamoro Transition Commission as witnesses. The BOL, the result of what had seemed like a near-endless period of negotiation between the national government and the major Muslim insurgencies in Mindanao, fronted by the MILF, will be the foundation for the establishment of a new Autonomous Region of the Bangsamoro (ARB) to replace the ARMM.
In the first days of the month leading up to the BOL ceremonial signing, MILF chairman Al Haj Murad Ibrahim was going full force in both making his sentiments known and providing his explanation for the historical document on social media, using a Twitter account he established only last Friday, August 3. He states in his tweets that the BOL acknowledges the distinct identity of the Bangsamoro people, as well as recognizing the legitimacy and justness of their cause for the establishment of a place where they could live according to their customs and traditions.
To counter concerns by people in Mindanao that the ARB might become the springboard of a wholly Muslim and independent state, Murad reassures them that the BOL also acknowledges that the Bangsamoro have long lived together with other identities in coexistence; thus, the law forming the ARB will only allow an autonomous government that is “inclusive” of other cultures and “primarily based on justice and equality.” He completed his series of Twitter posts with an earnest entreaty: “I ask that you participate in shaping the Bangsamoro Vision – a vision that goes beyond our individual, clan, party, [and] organizations’ interests.”
The BOL will soon call for a plebiscite to be held with the ARMM territory, Isabela City in Basilan, Cotabato City, 6 Lanao Del Norte municipalities and 39 North Cotabato barangays. The plebiscite will be scheduled for some time between October 25 and December 24.
Image courtesy of Manila Bulletin News