JULY 27, 2018 – President Rodrigo Roa Duterte signed Republic Act No. 11054 or the Bangsamoro Organic Law (BOL) yesterday, a day after receiving the enrolled bill from Congress on Wednesday night.

Duterte, the first Mindanaoan president, signed the “Organic Law for the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao” three days after his third State of the Nation Address.

The hallmark piece of legislation is one of his campaign promises to address the centuries-old clamor of the Moro people for self-governance over their ancestral lands in Mindanao.

The Bangsamoro Organic Law is based on the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro (CAB) – a peace deal that was signed between the government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) in 2014 under the Aquino government.

The law will strengthen the current autonomy set-up of the region, giving the new Bangsamoro government more control over resources and political power.

Under the new law, the Bangsamoro region will adopt a parliamentary system composed of representatives from different sectors, which also include non-Moro indigenous peoples, women, youth and Christian settlers from the region.

A plebiscite is scheduled to be held later this year throughout the identified five provinces of the current Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM), and six other municipalities in Lanao del Norte and 39 barangays in North Cotabato which are outside the domain of ARMM

Thousands of MILF fighters will undergo a decommissioning process. Firearms will be handed over to an international third party, while MILF camps will be transformed into peaceful and unarmed communities.

The leadership of the MILF had earlier commended the Duterte administration for fulfilling its promise to bring peace in Mindanao.

Peace negotiations between the government and the MILF commenced in 1997 a year after the government signed a peace deal with the Moro National Liberation Front in September 1996.

The talks with the MILF formally opened in October 1999 in Sultan Kudarat, Maguindanao.

The talks, however, bogged down in 2000 when then-President Joseph Estrada declared “all-out war” against the MILF.

In 2008, under the administration of then-President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, the Memorandum of Agreement on Ancestral Domain was scheduled to be signed by the government and MILF.

The Supreme Court, however, issued a temporary restraining order against it. This led to major armed conflicts in some parts in Mindanao which displaced hundreds of thousands of individuals.

A major breakthrough was achieved on October 15, 2012 when both parties signed the Framework Agreement on the Bangsamoro (FAB). The FAB outlines the general features of the political settlement between the government and the MILF.

The FAB led to the signing of the CAB.

However, the first version of the Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) in 2016 failed to pass the legislative mill over low public support following the Mamasapano incident.

The Duterte administration continued the process by creating a more inclusive Bangsamoro Transition Commission (BTC) that will redraft the BBL.

President Duterte signed Executive Order No. 8, increasing the members of the BTC from 15 to 21 to include representatives from the MNLF and other stakeholders on November 2016.

In July 2017, the BTC turned over to President Duterte a newly drafted BBL. Exactly a year later, the Senate and House of Representatives were able to reconcile their respective versions and approve it following a week-long marathon hearing. ###