Road to peace in Mindanao: The Bangsamoro Organic Law

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Children draw peace murals outside Malacañan Palace after the conclusion of the signing of the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro between the Philippine government and the MILF on March 27, 2014.

Metro Manila (CNN Philippines) — Conflict in Mindanao is one of the country's biggest issues that dates back decades, tracing its roots to disputes over land and religion.

The Moros, faced with land grabbing of their ancestral lands, have been fighting for what their say is rightfully theirs. Rebel groups such as the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) turned to violence and demanded for a separate state.

Past administrations tried to attain peace in the south through negotiations, but none have succeeded. The Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) is the latest of the government's efforts to quell the conflict in Mindanao.



Under the Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo administration, the government and the MILF, a breakaway faction of the MNLF, announced the creation of the Memorandum of Agreement-Ancestral Domain (MOA-AD), a document that outlined the creation of a Bangsamoro Juridical Entity with its own police, military and judicial systems.

The MOA-AD proposed the creation of an autonomous political region.


After issuing a temporary restraining order on the signing of the MOA-AD, the Supreme Court declared the agreement unconstitutional and illegal.



Under then President Benigno Aquino III, the government and the MILF concluded its 32nd round of exploratory talks with the signing of the Framework Agreement on the Bangsamoro.

Marvic Leonen, head of the government panel, and Mohagher Iqbal, the MILF's chief negotiator, signed the peace accord in Malacañang.


President Aquino created the 15-member Bangsamoro Transition Commission (BTC) that would craft the BBL, following a technical impasse in the 34th round of peace talks.



After multiple rounds of talks, the government and MILF signed the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro (CAB), which serves as the basis of the draft BBL.

The two panels signed annexes on transitional arrangements, wealth, power-sharing, and water territories.


The BTC submitted a partial draft of the proposed BBL to Malacañang for review.


A second draft of the proposed BBL was submitted to Aquino.


Aquino handed Senate President Franklin Drilon and House Speaker Feliciano Belmonte the draft BBL. The House of Representatives created a "supercommittee" to tackle the bill, while the Senate conducted its first briefing on the proposal.

The BBL provided a basic structure of government focusing on the rights of the Bangsamoro people, described as "natives or original inhabitants of Mindanao and the Sulu archipelago and its adjacent islands including Palawan."

The measure paves the way for the creation of the Bangsamoro, the successor to the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) established in 1989 through Republic Act 6734.

It also delineates authority in the region by assigning jurisdiction reserved powers for the Central government, exclusive powers for the Bangsamoro government, and concurrent powers for both the Central and the Bangsamoro governments.

Senator Bongbong Marcos, chair of the Senate committee on local government, criticized the bill for creating a sub-state, citing the Supreme Court decision on the MOA-AD.


January 25

Forty-four members of the police Special Action Force were killed in an encounter with the MILF and the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters in Mamasapano, Maguindanao, despite a ceasefire. They were on a mission to capture Malaysian terrorist Zulkifli bin Hir alias "Marwan." At least 18 rebels and five civilians were also killed in the botched operation.

January 26

Senators Alan Peter Cayetano and JV Ejercito withdrew as co-authors of the BBL. Marcos indefinitely suspended hearings on the BBL under his committee.

February 2

Cagayan de Oro Representative Rufus Rodriguez, chair of the House special committee on the BBL, said no hearings would be held until concerned agencies in the Mamasapano encounter submitted their reports.

March 6

Congress leaders set a new deadline for the passage of the BBL: June 30, the end of the second regular session.

March 19

A survey by Pulse Asia showed that after the Mamasapano encounter, public disapproval of the BBL rose to 44 percent. The same survey "showed that disagreement with the bill was more evident in Mindanao at 62 percent," while public awareness of the BBL rose to 88 percent.

April 13

The Senate resumed its hearing on the BBL.

May 18

The House began its two-day discussion on the 109-page BBL draft, which included 220 provisions. The hearings tackled which provisions should be included in the final draft, which would create a political unit to replace the ARMM.

May 20

With a 50-17 vote and one abstention, the House Ad Hoc Committee on the BBL approved the draft and the committee report of the proposed measure, which was then renamed the Basic Law for the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region (BLBAR).

May 25

Marcos invited to a hearing representatives of the sultanates and various indigenous people of Mindanao who were allegedly not consulted by the government when it created the proposed BBL with the MILF.

May 28

Representatives Lito Atienza, Michael Velarde Jr., and Irwin Teng filed criminal complaints of treason and sedition before Manila's Senior Deputy City Prosecutor Eufrosino Sulla against members of the government peace panel and the MILF, for allegedly selling out the country in order to cater to the interests of Bangsamoro rebels in crafting a flawed BBL.

June 5

Marcos hinted at sponsoring a substitute bill, saying he would start with the draft version of the BBL and remedy constitutional, administrative, and economic issues, among others.

June 11

Members of the House of Representatives set a new September deadline for the passage of the draft BBL, having failed to pass the bill before it adjourned for its break in June.

August 11

Marcos said 17 senators had signed the committee report on the substitute bill on the BBL, which was then renamed the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region Law. He said 80 percent of the provisions had been amended, including creating more inclusivity in the Bangsamoro Transition Authority.

November 26

After Congress missed its new September deadline, the chief negotiators of both peace panels urged lawmakers not to lose more time.

December 8

Aquino met with lawmakers to discuss what would become of the BBL, as the measure had been pending in the House plenary for second reading since September due to lack of quorum, while it was still in the period of interpellation in the Senate.

The 16th Congress eventually failed to pass the BBL when it adjourned in February 2016.


June 30

Rodrigo Duterte assumed office as the first Philippine president from Mindanao. During his campaign, he promised to bring peace in the south through the passage of the BBL. He also pushed for a federal form of government.

August 12

Presidential Peace Adviser Jesus Dureza said he hoped a new version of the BBL could be crafted "as quickly as possible while our national government is working toward federalism."

August 16

Members of the BTC increased from 15 to 21, to include representatives from the indigenous people communities, local government, sultanates, and other groups in the talks.


May 5

Duterte said he had lost optimism over peace negotiations with Moro rebels, as there were still conflicts between the MILF and the MNLF.

Some leaders of the two competing groups initially agreed to push for the passage of the BBL. But the MNLF later rejected it, saying there were complicated issues surrounding the proposed law.

June 8

Government of the Philippines Implementing Panel Chair for the Bangsamoro Irene Santiago said the final draft of the proposed BBL would be submitted to Duterte before his second State of the Nation Address on July 24.

July 17

Duterte received the final draft of the proposed BBL as approved by the BTC.

July 19

Duterte met with MNLF founder and leader Nur Misuari to discuss the BBL and the shift to federalism.

September 5

House Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez said he planned to author a bill creating the BBL after Malacañang sent its version.

November 27

Duterte said he would push for a special session in Congress in a bid to fast-track the BBL. Some senators, however, said not even a special session would be enough to pass the BBL before the yearend.


January 16

The House of Representatives resumed its discussions on the proposed BBL. Zamboanga Sibugay Rep. Wilter Palma II, who presided over the joint subcommittee hearing, said they replaced the term "territory" with "geographical area" to avoid constitutional questions.

January 19

Duterte said a bigger war in Mindanao may erupt if Moro rebel groups do not see any significant development in their fight for autonomy, which meant either the passage of the BBL or the shift to federalism.

January 25

Senators Miguel Zubiri, Sonny Angara, JV Ejercito, and Risa Hontiveros conducted the first public consultation in Mindanao on the proposed BBL, taking place in Cotabato City in Maguindanao.

January 26

Senators held their second public consultation in Mindanao in war-torn Marawi. They said the proposed BBL would help fast-track the city's rehabilitation as the Bangsamoro region would gain access to more funding as an autonomous entity.

February 9

Zubiri said the Senate is determined to pass the proposed law by March 22, to give a legal foundation for the creation of a new Bangsamoro region that would replace the ARMM.

February 11

Dureza said Duterte wants Congress to prioritize the passage of the BBL over the shift to a federal form of government. Critics have slammed this move, saying the BBL should happen ahead of charter change since setting up a new autonomous region required amending the 1987 Constitution.

February 12

The Senate committee on public government resumed its public hearing on the proposed BBL.

February 28

The Senate Committee on Local Government, Ways and Means, and Finance, and the Subcommittee on the Bangsamoro Basic Law submit Senate Bill No. 1717 or the "Bangsamoro Basic Law." The Bill, sponsored by Zubiri, was filed after 11 public hearings, and six days of technical working group meetings.

May 29

A day before the regular session of Congress adjourns, Duterte certified the proposed BBL as urgent. The certification means the Senate and House of Representatives do not need to wait three days before voting on the measure for the final reading.

May 30-31

Voting 227-11-2, the House of Representatives approved its version of the proposed BBL, or House Bill 6475, on third and final reading on May 30. The Senate, after discussing provisions of the bill for about ten hours, voted 21-0 early May 31 to approve its version, Senate Bill 1717.

July 9

The 28-member bicameral conference committee led by Zubiri and House Majority Floor Leader Rodolfo Fariñas started its deliberations to iron out the provisions of the BBL. The panel said they will ensure the constitutionality of the measure to avoid eventual roadblocks.

July 18

After six days of deliberations, the bicameral committee approved the final version of the BBL, now called the Organic Law for the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao.

Some contentious provisions in the bill included the preamble, the opt-in clause, the block grant, the included territories, and generation, transmission, and distribution of inland waters and electricity.

According to the OLBARMM, the Bangsamoro government will be parliamentary-democratic in form, a first in our country's political history. It will be headed by the regional leader called the Chief Minister, who will preside over an 80-member parliament.

July 23

The Senate ratified the OLBARMM. Duterte was supposed to sign it into law during his third State of the Nation Address, but was unable to do so as the House of Representatives failed to ratify the proposed measure due to a change in leadership in the House of Representatives.

Duterte promised to sign the bill within 48 hours.

July 24

The House of Representatives, now at the helm of new House Speaker Rep. Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, ratified the OLBARMM.

October 11

The Sulu provincial government, through its governor Abdusakur A. Tan II, filed a petition for certiorari and prohibition asking the Supreme Court to review the measure's constitutionality.

Tan noted the province is "being coerced" to be part of the soon-to-be-established Bangsamoro Autonomous Region without consulting the stand of the majority.

December 7

The campaign period for the Bangsamoro plebiscite kicked off.

The Commission on Elections (Comelec) announced it will hold a two-day plebiscite on January 21, 2019, and February 6, 2019 for the ratification of the law.

This was done to accommodate other local government units which petitioned for voluntary inclusion in the region.

December 18

The Philippine Constitution Association (Philconsa) asked the high court to issue a temporary restraining order on the ratification of the Bangsamoro law. Philconsa called the measure unconstitutional.


January 8

The Supreme Court asked the executive and legislative branches to submit their comments on the petitions against the Bangsamoro law.

January 18

Cotabato City Mayor Cynthia Guiani-Sayadi urged Comelec chairman Sheriff Abas to inhibit from the Bangsamoro plebiscite. She said Abas is the nephew of Mohagher Iqbal, the Chief Peace Negotiator of MILF.

President Rodrigo Duterte also visited Cotabato City to personally campaign for the Bangsamoro law.

Duterte made a final pitch to Mindanaoans, and urged them to say "yes" to the measure's ratification.