By Francis Wakefield and Argyll Cyrus Geducos
President Duterte will lead in Malacañang today a ceremony marking the passage of the Bangsamoro Organic Law (BOL), a landmark law that will give meaningful autonomy to the Moro people in Mindanao.
Presidential Peace Adviser Jesus G. Dureza said the ceremony, which comes a little over a week after the President signed the law, symbolizes the major milestone in the Bangsamoro peace process.
“True to his campaign promise, President Rodrigo Roa Duterte has signed the Bangsamoro Organic Law, fulfilling his desire to bring peace in Mindanao,” he said.
“The Bangsamoro Organic Law is an extraordinary law. It is the product of years of peace negotiations with the Moro revolutionary groups and the stakeholders in Mindanao,” he added.
Formerly known as the Bangsamoro Basic Law, the BOL is premised on the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro, a signed peace deal.
The BOL is part of the Duterte administration’s agenda to achieve national reconciliation with the Moro rebel groups. Congress has extensively deliberated on the BOL and made sure that the law is within the bounds of the Constitution, and national sovereignty and territorial integrity, at the same time ensuring that the interests of all sectors are respected.
Dureza said the challenge is now for the country to “work hard to achieve the Bangsamoro Organic Law’s vision to bring peace and development and rectify past injustices to be able to work together in the days ahead.”
This developed as the Central Committee of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) agreed to officially declare its acceptance of the BOL.
MILF Chair Al Haj Murad Ebrahim said since the representatives of all MILF groups had expressed their acceptance of the law during the Bangsamoro Consultative Assembly on July 29 in Camp Darapanan, the Central Committee “held a special meeting on August 1, 2018 and agreed to officially declare its acceptance of the BOL as ratified by both Houses of Congress and signed by President Rodrigo Roa Duterte.”
Nabil Tan, Deputy Presidential Peace Adviser and Chair of the Government Implementing Panel for the GPH-MILF peace accord, said the BOL “should be seen not as a privilege for a few but as the government’s recognition of the Moros’ right to chart their political future through a democratic process as enshrined and guaranteed in the Constitution.”
“The legal framework is now ready, and it is now upon us, the stakeholders – Moros and non-Moros – to put our acts together to make it work,” he said.
A new tomorrow
Ghazali Jaafar, chair of the Bangsamoro Transition Commission (BTC), described Monday’s event as the beginning of “a better tomorrow” in the Bangsamoro homeland.
“The signing of the Bangsamoro Organic Law by our very own President Rodrigo Roa Duterte paves the way for the coming and establishment of a just and dignified peace in the Moro land. It is a dawn of hope for a better tomorrow. Indeed, it is a beginning of a new chapter in the history of the Moro people in their quest for a better life and progressive community where people are living together harmoniously free from oppression,” he said.
For MILF Implementing Panel Chair Mohagher Iqbal, the event set today is the culmination of the more than 17 years of peace negotiations between the government and the MILF.
“As Chair of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front Peace Implementing Panel and member of the Bangsamoro Transition Commission, I consider it a great honor to witness this event, proof of all those years of hard work in name of just and lasting peace in the Bangsamoro and the rest of Mindanao,” he added.
Iqbal also reiterated the fact that the signing of the BOL is “just the beginning. The real challenge lies ahead, or the implementation of the important commitments stipulated in the signed peace agreements, from the establishment of the transition government to the Normalization process.”
More work to be done
Malacañang acknowledged that there are still more work to be done to achieve a truly lasting peace in Mindanao despite the signing of the BOL.
Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque made the statement a day before the ceremonial signing of Republic Act No. 11054 or the Organic Law for the Bangsamoro
Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (OLBARMM).
In a statement, Roque said that noted the significance of the signing of the BOL since it is a step towards achieving the long-elusive peace in Mindanao.
“We cannot underplay the significance of this signing as we take comfort in this momentous step towards building the foundation of a lasting peace in Mindanao,” he said.
“We therefore would like to express our gratitude to all those who worked hard to enable the passage of this landmark law,” he added.
Roque, however, recognized that even though the measure has already been signed, the process of attaining peace in the southern part of the country is still unfolding.
“We recognize that more work still lies ahead, and we thank all those who remain patient and committed to this arduous task,” he said.
“We look forward to working with our countrymen in Mindanao in bringing the much-needed development to the island,” he added.
Better than ARMM
Tan emphasized that the OLBARMM is better than the ARMM Organic Law or RA 9054.
Speaking in Davao City on Friday, Tan said the BOL will grant the BARMM government more funds that would enable the region to chart the course of its economic development.
“Ngayon, [magkakaroon na ng] mas maraming pondo (Now, there will be more funds),” he said.
Tan noted that for years, the ARMM government has practically “begged Congress” to release funds for its operations. The fresh resources will give the BARMM “greater fiscal autonomy,” which the ARMM government does not enjoy under the current setup.
He said under the BARMM, an annual block grant is automatically appropriated in the General Appropriation Act (GAA) to the Bangsamoro government specifically for the rehabilitation and development of conflict-affected areas.
Aside from the Block Grant, a Special Development Fund will also be provided to the BARMM government that will allow it to accelerate its economic progress.
He said together, the Block Grant and the Special Development Fund will give the Bangsamoro people “the wherewithal to move forward and achieve peace and development.”
“It will improve the present ARMM. It will empower [the BARMM government]. It will accord [the Bangsamoro people] greater participation by the national government in terms of governance,” he said.