Too much hype was generated by the government in the signing of the Bangsamoro Organic Law (BOL) as the final road to peace in Mindanao and the Philippine government’s last promise to its peace negotiations with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF).

The BOL or House Bill 11054 otherwise known as the Organic Law for the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (OLBARMM) is the latest law that will define the form of regional autonomy for the Moro people in Mindanao. It will revise RA6734 or the law that created the ARMM and the RA9054, the law that amended the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) law to incorporate the 1996 Final Peace Agreement of the Government of the Philippines and the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF).

The BOL will pave way for the creation of the new Bangsamoro political entity, Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM) which Senator Miguel Zubiri, one of the authors of the law, referred to as “ARMM plus,” meaning 10-time improved ARMM in terms of self-governance, self-determination in terms of giving the BARMM a block grant and fiscal autonomy. Unlike the ARMM, they do not have to ask Congress for their budget but an automatic appropriation of at least 5% will be annually released to the BARMM.

The BARMM is also the only political entity that will take a parliamentary form of government and will implement Shariah laws through its local courts but is limited to civil and family lawsuits – matters which actually form part of the the current set-up in the ARMM.

However, most of the Moro people are not that jubilant with the signing because they felt BOL is another watered-down version. How can the Moro people understand President Rodrigo Duterte’s promises of peace when they know that many provisions contained in the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro (CAB) which was signed in 2014 with the MILF were lost in the BOL due to the lawmakers’ “language engineering” to make the BOL “constitutionally compliant”? This is an obvious depart from the “out of the box” framework of negotiations used during the previous administrations thus, paving way to consider international laws which respect the concept of right to self-determination.

What was achieved in this latest BBL is the strengthening of the national government’s hold over the new Bangsamoro entity by maintaining the primacy of national laws above regional laws, increasing reserved powers over defense and security as well as public order and safety and the continuing State and corporate control of resources within the Bangsamoro areas.

Even with the set-up of a parliamentary government, the political ties with national political parties will also come into play as the current set-up of Moro politics in general remain to be attached to a more well-funded, elite-dominated, and foreign- connected national political parties.

In the BOL, there is no assurance that the MILF will be in the leadership of the Bangsamoro beyond the transition period as they too will be a part of the contending political parties that will vie for a position in the parliament and head of the BARMM. In fact, the MILF had already lost the role of policing the Bangsamoro in the BOL with the removal of the concept of a Bangsamoro police force that should have constituted their members, instead would only reinforce the repressive role of the Philippine National Police (PNP) against the Moro people.

Moreover, we should take into consideration that the Philippine government’s framework for peace negotiation is worked in the concept of disarmament, demobilization and reintegration/rehabilitation (DDRR). The new term used for the MILF peace talks is “normalization” or the transition of the MILF’s Bangsamoro Islamic Armed Forces (BIAF) from combatants to civilians, which essentially renders futile their years-long armed struggle for self-determination.

BIAF will soon be trained as the military and police force of the region through the use of the framework of anti-terror policies and other repressive laws which intend to carry out the region’s law enforcement affair. The MILF was already tied to the ceasefire agreements and obliged to surrender their arms through decommissioning and be part of the security personnel of the Philippine government through joint normalization teams that seek to suppress possible reaction and rebellion, categorized as acts of terrorism, in anticipation of the Moro people’s discontent should the peace deal forged by the MILF with the government fail.

Step by step, the MILF is being stripped of its capacity to defend the Moro areas from military operations and in the end become part of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) and the PNP to serve as the government’s tool for repression of the Moro people. The first ceremonial turnover of 75 firearms and 145 MILF combatants deemed ready to return normal life happened in June 2015, five months after the Mamasapano incident. Probably before the plebiscite, the MILF should have turned over massive amount of artillery to the government.

No matter how the peace panels change the concept, what the Moro people understand is that this is already about surrendering the struggle for the defense of the Bangsamoro communities. Meanwhile, the rest who continue to defend their communities have to deal with the terrorist-branding attached to them with downright prejudice. (

comments powered by Disqus