What now BARMM?

by  Albert Lawrence Idia

IT HAS been a long and difficult journey, but in a historic moment, Mindanaons ratified the Bangsamoro Organic Law (BOL) on January 21, 2019. The creation of the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM) would replace the 30-year-old Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM), after two decades of peace negotiations between the Philippine government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF).

As CMFR observed the coverage of these momentous events, the media that report war and conflict with such dramatic accounts cannot seem to do the same for the painstaking measures for peace.

In a previous monitor, CMFR noted that news coverage did not quite capture the significance of the holding of the plebiscite or its result; much of the coverage can only be described as “run-of-the-mill.”  Journalists held back from providing background, shirking analysis of the prospects for a more permanent peace.

What has happened since? The public has received little information, with the customary disinterest of national media in significantly reporting positive developments in Mindanao. CMFR has thus relied on the reports of Mindanao-based MindaNews for its consistent tracking of events since the plebiscite.



Plebiscite. Out of a total of 1,980,441 registered voters in the ARMM, 1,540,017 voted “yes” (77.76%) while 198,750 voted “no” (10.04%). A total of 1,738,767 actually voted, for a voter turnout of 87.80%. Lanao del Norte and North Cotabato were scheduled to vote February 6.


After the plebiscite for Lanao del Norte towns and 67 North Cotabato towns, BARMM’S jurisdiction finally set: Lanao del Sur, Basilan, Sulu, Tawi Tawi, cities of Marawi, Lamitan and Cotabato, plus 116 ARMM towns and 63 Barangays in six North Cotabato towns.


Members of the BTA took their oath in Malacanang.


Inauguration was tentatively set for March 11 then changed to March 21. Schedule moved again two more times: from March 25 to March 29. Changes were due to the availability of President Duterte, per Ebrahim.


BTA elected officials; Ali Pangalian Macaorao Balindong, a four-term Representative of Lanao del Sur’s second district was voted as speaker. The BTA will govern the Bangsamoro during the three-year transition period until June 30, 2022.

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BTA resumed session in Cotabato City. The agenda: adoption of internal rules, organization of committees and initial report of those assigned on the different Codes and selected matters.


Retired Army Colonel Dickson Hermoso was appointed as BARMM chief of Ministry of Transportation and Communication. He was an assistant secretary at the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process.


BARMM Chief Minister Ahod Ebrahim signed the law creating the region’s official flag. It was the first act of its parliament.


Ebrahim handed over an Israeli-made assault rifle to President Rodrigo Duterte as a token of appreciation for what he has done for the Bangsamoro people. This happened at the start of the decommissioning of 30% of the MILF’s firearms and combatants. 


BARMM Bureau of Public Information said Ebrahim, who had served in a concurrent capacity since February as Minister of Public Works, has taken over the Ministry of Finance, Budget and Management from Eduardo Guerra.


The 63 villages in the six North Cotabato towns that voted for inclusion in BARMM in the plebiscite were formally turned over to Ahod “Al Haj Murad” Balawag Ebrahim, Bangsamoro Chief Minister.


Bangsamoro Parliament approved a budget of PHP65.6 billion for BARMM.