By Hannah Torregoza
The Senate has ratified the bicameral conference committee report on the proposed Bangsamoro organic law (BOL) as the Senators resumed regular session on Monday.
The measure, to be called the “Organic Law for the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao,” would be submitted immediately to Malacañang for President Rodrigo Duterte’s signature.
Senate President Pro Tempore Ralph Recto manifested his approval of the bicameral report saying it essentially portrayed that most of the provisions in the Senate version of the proposed law prevailed.
Once signed by the President into law, a plebiscite shall be held for the supposed constituents of the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region, not earlier than 90 days and no later than 150 days after the effectivity of the BOL.
The Bangsamoro Organic Law will replace the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM). Included in the plebiscite are the original ARMM provinces such as Basilan, Sulu, Tawi-tawi, Lanao del Sur and Maguindanao.
Constituents of the six towns in Lanao del Norte and 39 barangays in North Cotabato will vote to determine if they want to belong to the Bangsamoro. But majority of voters in the mother units of these areas should also vote in favor of joining the Bangsamoro for these to be part of the territorial jurisdiction of the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region.
The Bangsamoro Transition Authority would be composed of 80 members appointed by President Duterte.
The proposed Bangsamoro law was forged as a peace agreement by President Benigno Aquino III, Duterte’s predecessor, with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF).
However, it failed to be approved following the deaths of the 44 Special Action Forces (SAF) troopers in a botched operation in Mamasapano, Maguindanao in January 2015.
The operation targeted Malaysian bomb maker Zulkilfi bin Hir alias “Marwan” and Filipino terrorist Basit Usman. But the SAF troopers had an encounter with Moro rebels in the town despite a ceasefire in place.
Senator Risa Hontiveros said she voted for the approval of the Bangsamoro bill as this is the upper chamber’s legislative expression of their commitment to the peace process.
“The BBL is our recognition of the justness and legitimacy of the cause of the Bangsamoro people. It is the legislative expression of our commitment to the peace process,” said Hontiveros, a member of the Senate minority bloc.
“The enactment of the ‘Organic Law for the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao’ is a good place to continue this long and overdue journey to a lasting and dignified peace,” Hontiveros said.
Hontiveros said she recognized that unlike most laws, the Bangsamoro organic law took an “incredibly long, tricky and arduous road.”
“But with the grace of Allah, here we all are. The entire process we went through—the deliberations on the bill, the public hearings in Mindanao, the arguments over provision per provision—was tedious and at times, frustrating.”
“That is why I salute all my fellow legislators, the peace advocates, the OPAPP (Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process), the Bangsamoro Transition Commission (BTC), whose steadfast commitment to the process is unparalleled,” Hontiveros said.
“The ratification today is a testament to our commitment to the democratic process. It is a sign that the system works. That all we needed was a shared and unwavering belief in justice and that all roads lead to peace,” she said.