DAVAO CITY (MindaNews) — Signed Friday, July 27, not Thursday or earlier than Thursday.
Malacanang released late Friday afternoon copy of RA 11054 or the Organic Law for the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (OLBARMM) that President Rodrigo Duterte claimed in two speeches on Thursday, that he had already signed.
The law, which repeals RA 6734, the Organic Act creating the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) as amended by RA 9054, bore the signature of the President and the date of approval on Friday, July 27, 2018. (The same signature page shows four other names: Senate President Vicente Sotto, House Speaker Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, the Secretary and Secretary-General of the Senate and House of Representatives, respectively. Curiously, there is no signature above Arroyo’s name).
There is no indication what time RA 11054 was signed. From Zamboana City on Thursday, the President returned to Davao City that evening and late Friday afternoon visited fire survivors and soldiers wounded in action in Jolo, Sulu. He returned to Davao City immediately after.
Presidential spokesperson Harry Roque and Special Assistant to the President Christopher Lawrence Go late Thursday afternoon (July 26) initially said the consolidated Senate Bill 1717 and House Bill 6475 had not been signed. Later in the evening, Roque said it was signed “as of 7:12 p.m.”
Duterte’s signing on July 27, 2018 comes exactly 10 years to the day the peace panels of the government (then referred to as GRP) and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) initialed in Kuala Lumpur the Memorandum of Agreement on Ancestral Domain (MOA-AD), on the eve of then President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo’s 8th State of the Nation Address (SONA).
Duterte, the country’s first Mindanawon President was supposed to have signed the OLBARMM into law on July 23, on his third SONA, but only the Senate managed to ratify the bill consolidated and finalized by the Bicameral Conference Committee on the Proposed Bangsamoro Basic law. The House of Representatives failed to do so on Monday due to a leadership row but did so on Tuesday.
The President vowed during his SONA that he would sign it “within 48 hours” from the time his office receives a copy. Maguindanao Representative and Deputy Speaker for Mindanao Bai Sandra Sema, said the Office of the President received a copy at 7:30 p.m. on July 25. Sema posted on her Facebook page shortly after 5 p.m. on July 27 a copy of the last page of RA 11054 bearing Duterte’s signature and the letters of transmittal of the signed law to House Speaker Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo and Senate President Vicente Sotto. Sema didn’t say why Arroyo’s signature is missing.
In his speeches in Ipil town in Zamboanga Sibugay and Zamboanga City on Thursday Duterte announced he had signed the law but his Spokesperson and Special Assistant said he had not. This caused confusion and even triggered a word war among followers and critics of the measure. The OLBARMM used to be referred to as the Bangsamoro Basic Law and is now being referred to by some sectors as “Bangsamoro Organic Law” or BOL.
The MOA-AD initialled on July 27, 2008 in Kuala Lumpur was scheduled for formal signing on August 5, 2008 but the Supreme Court issued a temporary restraining order (TRO) a day earlier, barring the government peace panel chair, then retired General Rodolfo Garcia, and then Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process Hermogenes Esperon, also a retired general, from formally signing it.
In October 2008, the Supreme Court, by a vote of 8-7, declared the MOA-AD unconstitutional but noted that “surely, the present MOA-AD can be renegotiated or another one will be drawn up to carry out the Ancestral Domain aspect of the Tripoli Agreement of 2001, in another or in any form, which could contain similar or significantly drastic provisions.”
The peace negotiations collapsed after the aborted formal signing of the MOA-AD. Hostilities resumed, displacing at least 350,000 residents between August 2008 and June 30, 2009. The government issued a suspension of military operations on July 23, 2009, reciprocated by the MILF with a suspension of military action but the peace talks formally resumed only in December 2009, this time in the presence of the International Contact Group composed of representatives of governments and international non-governmental organizations.
But with only seven months left to the end of Arroyo’s term, the two parties were not able to sign a peace agreement.
The Aquino administration that followed (2010 to 2016) succeeded in forging the Framework Agreement on the Bangsamoro (FAB) with the MILF on October 15, 2012 and the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro (CAB) on March 27, 2014.
But the Aquino administration failed to pass the Bangsamoro Basic Law that would have paved the way for the creation of a new autonomous political entity that would replace the ARMM. The Mamasapano Tragedy of January 25, 2015 in Tukanalipao, Mamasapano in Maguindanao which left 66 persons dead — 44 members of the Special Action Force of the Philippine National Police, 17 members of the MILF’s Bangsamoro Islamic Armed Forces and five civilians — turned out to be the game changer.
The new political entity that will replace the ARMM has been named by RA 11054 as the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM).
The Bangsamoro law provides for the creation of the BARMM that MILF leaders say is “definitely more than ARMM” or “ARMM plus.”
MILF chair Al Haj Murad Ebrahim told MindaNews it is “very much above ARMM.”
An “enhanced” or “strengthened” ARMM was offered to the MILF across several administrations but the MILF rejected the offers.
The draft Bangsamoro law crafted by the 21-member Bangsamoro Transition Commission (BTC) composed of 11 nominated by the MILF and 10 by the government envisioned a Bangsamoro entity based on the CAB with strong features of power-sharing and wealth-sharing to ensure genuine political and fiscal autonomy because the status quo – and that includes the ARMM – is “unacceptable.”
Murad said the OLBARMM is “80 to 90% CAB-compliant.”
The law will take effect 15 days after publication in the Official Gazette and two national newspapers as well as a regional paper in the proposed Bangsamoro territory.
The ARMM will be deemed abolished, however, only upon ratification in a plebiscite in January 2019. (Carolyn O Arguillas / MindaNews)