House OKs Bangsamoro Law

THE House of Representatives ratified the Bangsamoro Organic Law (BOL) on Tuesday, a day after a power struggle for the speakership stalled its approval.

The BOL abolishes the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) and replaces it with the Bangsamoro Region, which will enjoy fiscal autonomy under a duly elected Bangsamoro Parliament.

GhazaliJaafar, chairman of the Bangsamoro Transition Commission (BTC), welcomed the House move, which would pave the way for President Rodrigo Duterte to sign the measure into law.

“Of course, we are happy because the President will surely sign this into law. The President has been pushing for this. He promised to shepherd this to passage,” Jaafar said.

“The Bangsamoro government will usher in a just and dignified peace in our place,” Jaafar said.

Also provided under the BOL is the inclusion of the six Lanao del Norte municipalities and 39 barangay (villages) of North Cotabato in the Bangsamoro Region, which will only happen if their mother provinces approve via plebiscite.

Malacañan Palace was optimistic the law would be signed by President Duterte anytime this week.

In a news briefing, Palace spokesman Harry Roque Jr. said the House of Representatives’ ratification of the BOL was the only thing that stood in the way of its enactment into law.

“I think it deserves a ceremony of sorts because this is a milestone…This is the first time that [the law]was enacted after MOA-AD was declared unconstitutional,” Roque added.

MOA-AD is a draft ancestral domain pact between the government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), declared by the Supreme Court as “unconstitutional” on October 14, 2008.

“I think the fact that it was finally passed by Congress is evidence of the political will of the President himself,” Roque said.

All signs pointed to Duterte signing the measure into law before his third State of the Nation Address, but the plan fell through after the House majority decided to replace House Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez with Pampanga Rep. Gloria Macapagal Arroyo.

“Despite all that has been said against the BOL by all sectoral groups, I make this solid commitment that this administration will never deny our Muslim brothers and sisters the basic legal tools to chart their own destiny within their constitutional framework of our country,” Duterte said.

“When the approved version is transmitted and received by my office, give me 48 hours to sign it and ratify that. I will read it first before signing, maybe [you lawmakers]put a provision there that will not be beneficial to some people,” Duterte added.

Duterte quipped that he would break the notion of Mindanao as a land of “promise,” since broken promises were all that Mindanaoans had received from the government.

“In the end of my term I hope to see the promise to Mindanao fulfilled. Or at least in the very least approaching fulfillment. Be that as it may, Mindanao is at a crossroads of history. One road leads to harmony and peace, the other to war and human suffering,” he added.—With Ralph Edwin U. Villanueva