BARMM replaces ARMM

AS A MATTER OF FACT - Sara Soliven De Guzman (The Philippine Star) - January 28, 2019 - 12:00am

Malacañang declared January 21 as a special non-working holiday in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao, Cotabato City, and Isabela City in Basilan for the plebiscite that will ratify the Bangsamoro Organic Law.

Last Friday, after an audit group re-tabulated the certificates of canvass (COCs) in Cotabato which proved that there was no discrepancy in the votes for ‘yes’ and ‘no’ in the city, the Comelec convening as the National Plebiscite Board of Canvassers (NPBOC) ratified the Bangsamoro Organic Law (BOL) and consequently abolished the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM).

Well, we all know that this is a very sensitive issue not only for the Muslim and Christian groups living in the area but also for many Filipinos. Change always brings apprehensions, doubts, worries to people but let us remember that it is inevitable.

The centuries of struggle brought about by colonialism and destabilization of a region which was predominantly Muslim created hundred year wars, strife and great depression.

My friend Ayesha Merdeka, a Muslim scholar reflected on the events that have taken place in her land and this is what she wrote: Mulling over the resounding YES vote of Cotabato City and desolate NO of Sulu in the recent plebiscite had me thinking about the 44 years of peace negotiation between the Philippine Government and the Bangsamoro Army, both MNLF and MILF. To me it’s a continuum. Otherwise, we fall folly to the trick they do of pulling the 498 years plight of the Muslims in this archipelago called the Bangsamoro Cause to mere organizations and personalities when both the MNLF and MILF Bangsamoro Army is but part of a long line of mujaheedin, freedom fighters in the 498 years struggle of the Muslim communities in this archipelago against foreign invaders and colonialism.

Our dilemma as a people began in 1521 when the Spanish fleet headed by Captain Magellan called the natives they fought with in their chronicles with Pigafetta in the fore as “Moro” after the Muslim Moors who ruled Spain for 800 years (c700-1492) upon observing the ways of the natives to be Muslims that began with hearing adhan, the call of prayers, and alarm as well on their entry to Philippine waters.

In the 333-year rule of the Spanish Colonial Government in the archipelago they called their policy of annihilation and subjugation of Muslims as “Mindanao War” that was carried forth by the American Colonial Government and resurrected by President Marcos after the 1968 Jabidah Massacre that led to the inception of the Moro National Liberation Front. The Mindanao War in the 1970s on the Bangsamoro was at its highest intensity in 1974 with massacres all over and burning of masjids and Muslim villages everywhere in Mindanao which began the peace negotiation in 1974 and culminated in the signing of the 1976 RP-MNLF Tripoli Agreement. But Nur Misuari refused to come home and an internal conflict between him and Hashim Salamat led to a split and the creation of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front in 1977.

Abul Khayr Alonto, the leading MNLF officer leading the defense of the Bangsamoro as Misuari and Salamat were in exile abroad, unable to resolve the conflict came down from the hills in 1978 and worked for autonomy to be institutionalized in the country as the mechanism to implement the Tripoli Agreement. President Marcos issued PD 1618 in 1979 creating the 10 provinces and 6 cities of the first Autonomous Governments of Regions IX and XII. Misuari remained in exile asserting the belligerent status of the Bangsamoro. Salamat as MILF Chairman continued on the struggle in the battlefields while Alonto pursued the struggle in Philippine politics.

The 1986 Edsa Revolution and the 1987 Philippine Constitution reduced the area of the Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao to 4 provinces and 2 cities in the plebiscite called under President Corazon Aquino. In between presidents, all out war on the Bangsamoro were called until President Noynoy Aquino signed the 2013 GPH-MILF Framework on the Bangsamoro (FAB) in which the Philippine Government recognized and declared the Bangsamoro as the First Nation in the Philippines prompting Alonto to jubilantly state in international media, “the Bangsamoro is finally back home.”

The 2014 GPH-MILF Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro (CAB) followed suit from whence the first Bangsamoro Transition Commission (BTC) culled the diluted Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) they passed to the two houses of Philippine Congress that was in turn mangled by the Sen. Bong Marcos sponsored BBL that was killed on the floors of Philippine Congress in 2016 which was the basis of the 2nd constituted BTC to formulate the double killed Bangsamoro Organic Law (BOL) ratified in 2018 and which the plebiscite affirmed this month. Forty-four years of peace negotiation brings us to BARMM.

Salamat passed away a few years back. May Allah Swt grant him janaatul firdaus. Ameen but MILF leadership will rule BARMM. With Alonto at the helm of the Mindanao Development Authority and a member of the Duterte Philippine Cabinet in relentless pursuit of creating new institutions and frontiers for the Bangsamoro and Mindanao, Zubiri’s suggestion of Misuari as Wali of the BARMM puts all Bangsamoro Army living personalities at the forefront of governance. It puts to focus the 498 years Bangsamoro Cause too that perchance under the first Mindanaoan President, Mayor Rodrigo Roa Duterte, will finally see its culmination as we build a One Bangsamoro, One Mindanao together as One Philippine Nation for the first time. Maybe. Only this time, that maybe is good.

The BOL serves as a conclusion of a peace deal signed between the past administrations and the MILF. It builds upon the gains of previous Moro peace agreements since the 1970s. If you can still remember, former president Benigno Aquino III had wanted to see the passing of the law before his term would end. But the approval was derailed due to the Mamasapano massacre in 2015, believed to be linked to the passage of P-Noy’s version of the BBL. Now, I am glad it did not happen. There are allegations that the P-Noy version could have led us to secession and dismemberment of the republic.

Today, the new Bangsamoro Organic Law makes more sense. The Constitutional issues have been cleaned out in the Senate. I feel calmer about it because it doesn’t divide the country as the first draft seemed to have tones of. Instead this new organic law promotes unity and more important peace amongst the people in Mindanao and the rest of the nation. But there is a historical truth here that we must one day understand. Abangan!

The region should be off to a good start. Of course fine tuning is expected as the days go by. But the most crucial challenge now is on how the people will protect the Bangsamoro Cause. How the leaders will use the new power bestowed on them? Will the MNLF and MILF become one? Will they work hard to protect their region or allow abuse to take over?

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