Bangsamoro Organic Law

The Bangsamoro Organic Law (BOL), originally called as Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL), is almost a law. What remains to be fulfilled is its ratification during the plebiscite to be called for the purpose by the Commission on Elections (Comelec) from 90 to 120 days from its publication in newspapers of national circulation. Most likely the plebiscite will take place in December this year.

The BOL is not a perfect law or something what the MILF and our people had hoped for to be legislated or passed. But they also understand that a law that is 100 percent compliant to the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro (CAB) is difficult to achieve. Never in a flash or better; it certainly is a work in progress.

During the deliberations in the bicameral conference committee two legislators had remarked that the CAB is an agreement between the MILF and the executive branch, which is to say, they are not obliged to comply with it. This, however, did not elicit a reply from members of the Bangsamoro Transition Commission (BTC) especially those from the MILF. They interpreted it as an offshoot of the hard and prolonged sessions into the night. It is of record that on several occasions, lawmakers from both Houses have witnessed several negotiations of the MILF and government in Kuala Lumpur; in fact, during the 16th Congress both Houses passed resolutions in support for the passage of the BBL.

Maybe among lawyers, they will have 50-50 appreciation of the quality of the BOL. Maybe even less. That is understandable because lawyers are by training rigid, precise, and meticulous. That is their fine qualities that guarantee the safety of clients (in the hands of good and upright (lawyers)).

But for revolutionary, nay mujahid (one who strives), their appreciation is more political, or is viewed as part of the protracted struggle. It is to get nearer and nearer to their goals, especially in negotiations. Thus, their appreciation is more positive and unrestricted: 85-15. They subscribed to the idea that it is men more than law that determines or assures the success of organizations, nations, and states. The imperfections in the law are paid for or balanced by sustained constructive engagements with government and their agencies, including private institutions, as well as the international communities. Maybe in the future, more devolutions of powers will follow.

Notwithstanding the imperfections of the BOL, it is definitely over and above the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM). Aside from powers and resources intrinsic in the BOL, all those enjoyed by ARMM are given to the Bangsamoro Government. It is ARMM, plus, plus!

Given this fact, what will be the decision of the MILF, acceptance or rejection?

In a gathering purposely to consult MILF leaders, political and military, as well as other stakeholders including mass supporters last July 29 in Darapanan, Sultan Kudarat, Maguindanao, they directly endorsed the BOL or gave the MILF Central Committee the mandate to decide on the issue. There was no dissenting opinion, not one, from the huge crowd of 100,000.

It is almost certain that the MILF will accept the BOL, without prejudice to continued assertion that the remaining unimplemented provisions of the CAB shall find completion in future legislation. It is government obligation to fully comply with the CAB, otherwise, the Exit Agreement, formally terminating the peace process, will be held in abeyance. And more seriously, the government would be accused of non-compliance.