By Vince Angelo C. Ferreras
WITH two weeks left before the plebiscite that will decide on the proposed Bangsamoro Organic Law (BOL), analysts agreed there is a possibility that it will be ratified, yet there are challenges ahead in the transition to an autonomous Bangsamoro region.
On July 26, 2018, President Rodrigo R. Duterte signed Republic Act 11054 or the Organic Law for the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM), which is a product of long peace negotiations between the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) and the national government dating back to the preceding administration of Benigno S.C. Aquino III.
Although he believes that the BOL will be passed, Ateneo Policy Center research fellow Michael Henry LI. Yusingco said that there were some “spoilers” in the passage of the BOL.
“However, siyempre (of course) obviously there will be spoilers. How would that affect the plebiscite? To be honest, I don’t know. If you just look back at the recent events, spoilers can be in a legal way, just like the petitions filed in (the) Supreme Court. In can be in (an) illegal way, such as the New Year’s eve bombing,” said Mr. Yusingco in a phone interview with BusinessWorld on Jan. 5.
On Oct. 30, 2018, Sulu Governor Abdusakur Tan II sought a temporary restraining order from the high court on the BARMM.
The MILF, for its part, does not discount the New Year’s Eve bombing in South Seas Mall in Cotabato City as a factor in derailing the upcoming plebiscite on Jan. 21.
When asked if the Bangsamoro region will bring peace to Mindanao, Mr. Yusingco stated: “Yes and no. Yes, because it will provide the platform for political participation for the Bangsamoro. But no, if it will be just business as usual on the part of the central government and the regional leaders.”
According to the latest report of the Institute for Autonomy and Governance Policy Brief written by Mr. Yusingco, the “case of ‘business as usual’ will bring disastrous results for the BARMM.”
“A case of ‘business as usual’ will bring disastrous results for the BARMM. Bangsamoro politicians and voters alike must see their role in a parliamentary system. So education and training for the needed changes is absolutely necessary,” the report read. University of the Philippines-Diliman law professor Antonio G.M. La Viña said the Marawi Siege will not happen if there is a Bangsamoro state.
“Kailangan siya. ‘Yung sa Maute, hindi ‘yan nangyari kung may Bangsamoro, ‘yung siege sa Marawi,” said Mr. La Viña in a phone interview with BusinessWorld on Jan. 5. (It is necessary. Regarding the Maute incident, it could have been prevented if there is Bangsamoro, the siege in Marawi).
He added that the BOL will also help further development of the region: “It would cascade to economic development, to better education of the people, for better opportunities, more foreign investments,” Mr. La Viña said.
University of Santo Tomas (UST) political science professor Marlon M. Villarin said the transition to a Bangsamoro region will not resolve conflict in Mindanao.
“Of course, whether the Bangsamoro will win the plebiscite,…of course, literally it cannot outrightly resolve the Mindanao conflict. Because the very reason is when you speak of the Bangsamoro Organic Law you are only talking about the MILF and there’s a different thing with what (was) aspired (for) by the MNLF (Moro National Liberation Front). And beyond that, there are subgroups who are also (a) seeing different thing that is acceptable to them. In fact, the BOL, for me, is doomed to fail if in case it will be carried out,” said Mr. Villarin in a phone interview with BusinessWorld on Jan. 5.
He added, “The problem is that when you look at BOL, it does not provide an effective mechanism that will manage public expectation specifically of those people living on Mindanao. It’s purely generic. It’s purely general. It does not provide specific measure as to how it will make peace a sustainable atmosphere in the region.”
Political dynasties are one prevailing issue with regards to the BOL. The bicameral conference committee did not include the Anti-Political Dynasty provision in the final version of the proposed BOL after some members “strongly opposed” it.
Mr. La Viña said: “The Bangsamoro Organic Law has a parliamentary system. Therefore, there is a better chance na walang (of no) dynasty. In a parliamentary system, at least 40 or 60% of the seats are reserved for parties. So therefore, there is a bigger chance na hindi siya mako-control ng mga families (So therefore, there is a bigger chance that it will not be controlled by the families)…Ang governor dito (The governor here) is not elected by the people but by the parties of the parliament.”
The BARMM will follow a parliamentary type of system, under which the legislative and executive bodies in the BARMM are more closely connected.
Residents in the proposed region will elect 80 members of parliament who will then elect a chief minister. The chief minister will appoint the members of the Cabinet.
UST Political Science Department chairperson Dennis C. Coronacion said the rejection of the anti-political dynasty provision is due to the strengthening of regional political parties under the BOL.
“That’s probably because the MILF leadership is confident that the BOL has provisions that indirectly control the proliferation of political dynasties in the region. For instance, it allows the strengthening of regional political parties. If political parties would be strengthened, the electorate would not see any need to elect members of political dynasties,” said Mr. Coronacion in an online interview with BusinessWorld on Jan. 5. The BOL also abolishes the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) which was established in 1989 through Republic Act No. 6734. Analysts agreed that the said autonomous region was a failure.“The old ARMM is viewed by many as a failed experiment since it has failed to uplift the lives of the Muslim Filipinos,” Mr. Coronacion said.
Mr. Yusingco said, “I would say there were inherent faults in the legal framework itself. Which in a way made it difficult for the ARMM to be successful. ‘Yung law mismo (The law itself is) defective….One inherent fault in RA 9054,…the law treats the ARMM like a line agency of the central government. The law does not vest fiscal autonomy on the ARMM as contemplated in Article 10 of the 1987 Constitution.”
Mr. Villarin said: “We are repeating the same mistake again. We have to remember why rebellion happened in Mindanao is because of political, economic, historical atrocities that the Mindanaoans suffered. If you look at the contents, both of the ARMM and Bangsamoro Organic Law, they only responded to political and economic issues, but it doesn’t provide a genuine response in respect to (the) culture and history of (the) Mindanaoan people.”
Mr. La Viña said, “Constitutionally, it was bound to fail. Because I don’t think the ARMM gave real autonomy. It still allowed the President and the Manila departments to control the ARMM. But as always, even if the system was not good, but if the people are good and the current governor (Mujiv S.) Hataman has been excellent and not corrupt, so it worked very well under his leadership.” The plebiscite will be held in the ARMM, Cotabato City and the city of Isabela in Basilan. A separate plebiscite will be held on Feb. 6 in Lanao del Norte except Iligan City and in six municipalities in North Cotabato.