ARMM different breed!

One cannot correctly or appropriately compare the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) and Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM). They are of different breed. In a sense, the ARMM is chicken while the BARMM is peacock.

Explained more concretely, the ARMM is structurally unitary in character, while BARMM is essentially parliamentary in a unitary national governmental setting. The regional governor and vice regional governor are elected region-wide, while in the latter the chief minister and two deputy chief minsters are elected first either in direct representation by district or party representation before they are elected by parliament as chief minister and deputy chief ministers, respectively. 

There are other outstanding differences. The ARMM has less powers and it has no clear fiscal autonomy. Worse, it has to beg in Manila before funds are appropriated for its operations. In the BARMM, there are  63 powers which it can legislate on. Besides, all powers granted to ARMM are transferred to the BARMM. The fiscal autonomy is clearer. The block grant of five percent of the total national revenue collections and custom collections is automatically appropriated and released. 

As of now, the MILF has not yet accepted the proposed law officially. It is premature to do so. The final version of the law is yet to be fixed and adopted by the bicameral conference committee; second, Congress, voting separately, has not ratified it yet; and finally, the President has not signed it into law. It is still a work in progress.

More importantly, no major decision of the MILF will ever be made until consultations are held involving its political and military leaders, as well as the people in general. They are part of the decision-making. In addition, acceptance is not merely stating the affirmative. It is and will be more than that. Clear positional lines will be set up clearly vis-a-vis the  unimplemented provisions of the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro (CAB) and those provisions of the proposed law that are contrary to the  letter and spirit of the agreement.

On the issue of whether the late Salamat Hashim approves of the bicameral conference version of the proposed law should not be factored in the current discourse. The dead should be allowed to rest in peace in their final home. And besides, the current leaders of the MILF firmly believe that they are correctly and honestly following and pursuing the ideological and political lines of the departed leader. Others can pretend to be more in the know but that remains forever a pretension. Who can be more attached, truthful, and loyal to the late leader than those who remained in the struggle especially during its darkest and hopeless hours than those who make the core leadership of the MILF today?

If anyone expects the CAB to be translated and passed into law in its entirety and in one shot, it is wishful thinking. But if anyone adopts a frame of mind that the CAB has to be asserted until it is finally translated into law, then he or she is pursuing a correct line.