By Maecy Alviar
ZAMBOANGA CITY, Philippines (AA) – In a significant milestone in the peace process between the Philippine government and the “Bangsamoro” — a collective term for Filipino Muslims — President Rodrigo Duterte oversaw Monday the ceremonial signing of the Bangsamoro Organic Law (BOL) at the Malacañang Palace in the capital Manila.
Expressing optimism that the law would end decades of conflict that is rooted in the Bangsamoro's pride for self-determination, Duterte presented the law to Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) chairman Al Haj Murad Ebrahim.
The BOL is the fulfillment of a 2014 peace deal between the national government and the MILF.
Those who attended the ceremony included lawmakers, Cabinet members, officials with the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process, as well as the members of the Bangsamoro Transition Commission (BTC) — a commission tasked to craft the Bangsamoro law which is composed of representatives from the national government, the MILF and the Muslimin-Sema-faction of the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF).
Duterte called on the Filipinos to participate in the implementation of the law that is set to undergo a plebiscite to determine whether the stakeholders will accept or reject it.
"I ask my Bangsamoro brothers and sisters, as well as the indigenous communities and Christian settlers living within the Bangsamoro areas, to actively participate in constructive discussions about the law in your homes, in your villages, and communities," state-run Philippine News Agency quoted Duterte as saying during the ceremony.
Duterte also acknowledged the collective effort exerted by the BTC, the MILF, and the MNLF in the passage of the BOL as he expressed hope that the measure may serve as the “final trajectory for the attainment of genuine peace, stability and good governance in Muslim Mindanao”.
The MILF for its part committed on the decommissioning of the group's combatants after the ratification of the BOL in the plebiscite.
"The second phase of decommissioning 30 percent of our combatants will take place immediately after the ratification of the BOL," said MILF peace panel chairman Mohagher Iqbal.
Duterte signed the BOL on June 26.
The measure, which aims to grant wider autonomy for the Bangsamoro, would replace the existing Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao with the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region — a region with more political and fiscal powers including a bigger annual block grant equivalent to five percent of the total national internal revenue collection.