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Bangsamoro, officially the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM) is an autonomous region located in the Southern Philippines.

Replacing the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM), the BARMM was formed with the ratification of its basic law, the Bangsamoro Organic Law following two-part legally-binding plebiscite in Western Mindanao held on January 21 and February 6, 2019. The ratification was confirmed a few days later on January 25 by the Commission on Elections (COMELEC).

The establishment of Bangsamoro was the culmination of several years of peace talks between the Philippine government and several autonomist groups; in particular the Moro Islamic Liberation Front or MILF, which rejected the validity of the ARMM and called for the creation of a region with more powers devolved from the national government. A framework agreement known as the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro was negotiated between the Aquino administration and the MILF in 2014. After continued negotiations and debates over certain provisions, the Congress of the Philippines created and ratified a basic law for the region, now referred to as the Bangsamoro Organic Law; the bill was signed into law by President Rodrigo Duterte on July 26, 2018. Despite questions on the region's constitutionality, as it would have adopted a parliamentary system in an area of a country with a presidential system of government, no judicial ruling was made against the organic law and consequently the COMELEC held two-part plebiscite: one by ARMM citizens determining whether to dissolve the ARMM and immediately replace it with the Bangsamoro and, following the victory of the yes vote on the first part,[1][2][3] and the second part taken by neighboring municipalities and barangays in the provinces of Lanao del Norte and Cotabato regarding their cession to the Bangsamoro region.[4][5][6][7] As a result of the second part of the plebiscite, 63 barangays of Cotabato province were handed over to the Bangsamoro government, adding to the autonomous region's territory.[8][4]

The Bangsamoro took the place of the ARMM as the only Muslim-majority autonomous region in the Philippines.[9] Currently in transition until 2022, the Bangsamoro government has been considered a testing ground for the wider debate on constitutional reform and federalism in the Philippines.


The recently coined term Bangsamoro is derived from the Old Malay word "bangsa" ("race" or "nation") and "Moro" (the collective term for the various predominantly Muslim ethnic groups in the Philippines, from Spanish for "Moors").


A view of Cotabato City as seen in February 2018

Early history and arrival of Islam

Approximate historical extent of the Muslim sultanates of Sulu, Maguindanao and Lanao

For the most part of Philippines' history, the region and most of Mindanao have been a separate territory, which enabled it to develop its own culture and identity. The westernmost and west-central areas have been the traditional homeland of Muslim Filipinos since the 15th century, even before the arrival of the Spanish, who began to colonize most of the Philippines in 1565. Majority of Mindanao was the homeland of indigenous Lumad groups, who were neither Christians nor Muslims.

Muslim missionaries arrived in Tawi-Tawi in 1380 and started the colonization of the area and the conversion of the native population to Islam. In 1457, the Sultanate of Sulu was founded, and not long after that, the sultanates of Maguindanao and Buayan were also established. Many indigenous Lumad communities were displaced as a result of some of the area's 'Islamization'. At the time when most of the Philippines was under Spanish rule, these sultanates maintained their independence and regularly challenged Spanish domination of the Philippines by conducting raids on Spanish coastal towns in the north and repulsing repeated Spanish incursions in their territory. It was not until the last quarter of the 19th century that the Sultanate of Sulu formally recognized Spanish suzerainty, but these areas remained loosely controlled by the Spanish as their sovereignty was limited to military stations and garrisons and pockets of civilian settlements in Zamboanga and Cotabato,[10] until they had to abandon the region as a consequence of their defeat in the Spanish–American War.

Spanish colonial era

The Moros had a history of resistance against Spanish, American, and Japanese rule for over 400 years. The violent armed struggle against the Japanese, Filipinos, Spanish, and Americans is considered by modern Moro Muslim leaders as part of the four centuries long "national liberation movement" of the Bangsamoro (Moro Nation), although the term is only used in mainland Mindanao as those in the Sulu archipelago had a much distinct culture.[11] The 400-year-long resistance against the Japanese, Americans, and Spanish by the Moro Muslims persisted and morphed into a war for independence against the Philippine state.[12]

American colonial era

The United States' Insular Government of the Philippine Islands had only been in existence for two years in 1903 when it initiated the "Homestead Program," which was meant to encourage migration of landless populations from non-Muslim areas of the country into the Muslim-majority areas in Mindanao. Lanao and Cotabato in particular saw an influx of migrants from Luzon and Visayas. This influx of migrants led to tensions about land ownership and disenfranchisement of Lumads and Muslims, because the mostly-Christian migrants established claims on the land, whereas the native peoples of Mindanao didn't have a land titling system in place at the time. This US-led Homestead Program, which was later continued or copied by Philippine administrations after independence, is therefore often cited as one of the root-causes of what would later become the larger Moro conflict.[13]

World War II

In 1942, during the early stages of the Pacific War of the Second World War, troops of the Japanese Imperial Forces invaded and overran Mindanao, and the native Moro Muslims waged an insurgency against the Japanese. Three years later, in 1945, combined United States and Philippine Commonwealth Army troops liberated Mindanao, and with the help of local guerrilla units, ultimately defeated the Japanese forces occupying the region.

Postwar era

Under pressure to resolve agrarian unrest in various parts of the country, and noting that Mindanao was rich in mineral resources and weather favorable to agriculture, later Philippine presidents continued the promotion of migration which the American colonial government began in 1903. Massive arrivals of non-Muslim migrants happened particularly during the Commonwealth period under President Manuel Quezon and later under right-wing presidents Ramon Magsaysay and Ferdinand Marcos.[14] As a result, the proportion of indigenous peoples in Mindanao to shrink from majority in 1913 to minority by 1976.[14] The best lands in Mindanao were given to settlers and owners of corporate agriculture, while most development investments and government services were offered to the Christian population. This caused the Muslim population to be backward and rank among the poorest in their own country.[15] The resettlement programme was not entirely peaceful as some settlers managed to obtain land from the native Muslims through harassment and other violent efforts which drove the Muslims out of their own lands.[16]

The Muslims felt alienated by the Philippine government and felt threatened by the migrants' economic and political domination in their own homeland, the same way the Lumads were displaced centuries ago when Islam arrived in the Philippines. Some Muslim groups turned to extortion and violence to protect their land and avoid being displaced. These efforts at “integration” are credited for helping the Moro identity in mainland Mindanao crystallize, because the Muslims’ ability to identify with the rest of Filipino nation suffered in light of the threat to their economic and social well-being.Template:Buzzword inline[17]

As an effect of the resettlement, traditional Muslim leaders (also referred as datu) were also voted out during the polls as Christians, who made up a significant majority of the voters, preferred the Christian politicians over them. These local datus suffered a loss in prestige as they could no longer control the Muslim lands.[18] These politicians lost much of the capabilities they had possessed initially to manage the Muslim populace.[19]

The Jabidah Massacre and its impact

In March 1968, fishermen in Manila Bay rescued a Muslim man named Jibin Arula from the waters. They discovered that he had suffered from gunshot wounds, and he later recounted that he was the lone survivor of what would later be termed the "Jabidah Massacre."[16][20]

According to Jibin Arula's account, the Marcos administration had gathered a group of Tausug recruits for an operation called "Project Merdeka" (merdeka being the Malay "freedom"). The military began training them on the island of Corregidor to form a secret commando unit called "Jabidah," which would destabilize and take over Sabah.[21] The trainees eventually rejected their mission, for reasons that are still debated by historians today. Jibin Arula said that whatever the reasons behind their objections, all of the recruits aside from him were killed, and he escaped only by pretending to be dead.[20]

Bangsamoro Liberation Organization

Then Lanao del Sur congressman Haroun al-Rashid Lucman called for Congress to begin proceedings to impeach President Marcos after the "exposé" implied that Marcos was ultimately responsible for the massacre.[22] When his proposal didn't get enough congressional support, he became convinced that Muslims should rule themselves in Muslim Mindanao - a conviction which led him to eventually establish the Bangsamoro Liberation Organization (BMLO),[23] which later joined forces with the Moro National Liberation Front.[22]

Muslim Independence Movement

Cotabato Governor Datu Udtog Matalam [24] saw the anger of the Muslim people of Mindanao and established the Muslim Independence Movement (MIM), which openly called for the secession of the region to create a Muslim state.[25] The MIM did not last long because Datu Udtog Matalam negotiated with Marcos and accepted a post in his cabinet, but many of its members broke away and became the main force of the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF).[26]

Martial Law and the creation of the Moro National Liberation Front

On September 23, 1972, Ferdinand Marcos announced that he had placed the entirety of the Philippines, including Muslim Mindanao, under Martial law. While Datu Udtog Matalam's MIM was already defunct, one of its former members, Nur Misuari, established the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) a month after the declaration of Martial Law, on October 21, 1972.[26]

Proclamation 1081 dissolved the various political groups that had been previously established in the Moro provinces, and with the MIM having already been dissolved, Marcos' declaration of martial law effectively assured the MNLF, which was more radical than its predecessors, would come to dominate the Moro separatist movement.[27]

The 1976 Tripoli Agreement

On December 23, 1976, the Tripoli Agreement was signed between the Philippine government and the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) with the deal brokered by then-Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi. Under a deal an autonomous region was to be created in Mindanao.[28]

Marcos would later implement the agreement by creating two regional autonomous governments, rather than one, in Regions 9 and 12,[28] which cover ten (instead of thirteen) provinces. This led to the collapse of the peace pact and the resumption of hostilities between the MNLF and Philippine government forces.[29][30]

Establishment of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front

In signing the 1976 Tripoli Agreement, however, Misuari did not consult one of the MNLF's key commanders, Ustadz Salamat Hashim. Salamat formed a splinter faction along with 57 other MNLF ground commanders, which then became the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF).[31]

1987 Jeddah Accord

A year after Marcos was ousted from power during the People Power Revolution, the government under Corazon Aquino signed the 1987 Jeddah Accord in Saudi Arabia with the MNLF, agreeing to hold further discussions on the proposal for autonomy to the entirety of Mindanao and not just the thirteen provinces stated in the 1976 Tripoli Agreement. In 1989, however, an act establishing the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao was passed. The MNLF demanded that the thirteen Tripoli Agreement provinces, majority of which were Christian provinces, be included in the ARMM, but the government refused; eight of those provinces were predominantly Christian. Shortly thereafter, the government held only four provinces as only Lanao del Sur, Maguindanao, Sulu and Tawi-tawi voted to be included in the ARMM. The four provinces were the only Muslim-majority provinces at the time.[30]

ARMM and peace deal with the MNLF

A plebiscite was held in 1989 for the ratification of the charter which created the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) with Zacaria Candao, a counsel of the MNLF as the first elected Regional Governor. On September 2, 1996, a final peace deal was signed between the MNLF and the Philippine government under then President Fidel Ramos. MNLF leader and founder Nur Misuari was elected regional governor three days after the agreement. In 1996 peace talks between the Philippine government and MNLF's rival group, the MILF, began.[28]

The first deal between the national government and the MILF was made in 2008; the Memorandum of Agreement on Ancestral Domain. The agreement would be declared unconstitutional by the Supreme Court many weeks later.[28] Under the administration of President Benigno Aquino III, two deals were agreed upon between the national government and the MILF: the Framework Agreement on the Bangsamoro signed on October 15, 2012 and the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro on March 27, 2014.[32][33] which include plans regarding the establishing of a new autonomous region.

Attempts to create a Bangsamoro autonomous region

In 2012, Aquino intended to establish a new autonomous political entity under the name "Bangsamoro" to replace the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao which he called a "failed experiment."[34] Under his administration, a draft for the Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) was made but failed to get traction to become law to the Mamasapano clash of January 2015[28] which involved the murder of 44 mostly-Christian Special Action Force (SAF) personnel by allegedly combined forces of the MILF and the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) after an operation to kill Malaysian militant Zulkifli Abdhir known by the alias "Marwan".[35]

Bangsa Sug declared

In 2018, a unification gathering of all the sultans of the Sulu archipelago and representatives from all ethnic communities in the Sulu archipelago (Basilan, Sulu, and Tawi-tawi) commenced in Zamboanga City, declaring themselves as the Bangsa Sug peoples and separating them from the Bangsa Moro peoples of mainland central Mindanao. They cited the complete difference in cultures and customary ways of life as the primary reason for their separation from the Muslims of mainland central Mindanao. They also called the government to establish a separate Philippine state, called Bangsa Sug, from mainland Bangsa Moro or to incorporate the Sulu archipelago to whatever state is formed in the Zamboanga Peninsula, if ever federalism in the Philippines is approved in the coming years.[36]

Bangsamoro Organic Law and 2019 plebiscite

Voters look for their names at a precinct in Marawi during the January 21 BOL plebiscite.

Under the presidency of Aquino's successor, Rodrigo Duterte, a new draft for the BBL was made and became legislated into law as the Bangsamoro Organic Law (BOL) in 2018.[28] A plebiscite was held on January 21, 2019 to ratify the BOL, with a majority of ARMM's voters deciding for the ratification of the law which meant that the future abolition of the ARMM and the establishment of the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region was in motion. Voters in Cotabato City voted to join the new autonomous region while Isabela City voted against inclusion. The Commission on Elections proclaimed that the BOL is "deemed ratified" on January 25, 2019.[37][38] The provincial government of Sulu, where majority voted against inclusion, was also not in favor of the law with its governor challenging the constitutionality of the law before the Supreme Court. Despite voting against inclusion, Sulu was still included in the Bangsamoro region due to rules stated in the BOL, sparking outrage from the natives.[39][40]

In February 2019, the second round of the plebiscite was held in the province of Lanao del Norte and some towns in North Cotabato. The plebiscite resulted in the inclusion of 63 of 67 barangays in North Cotabato which participated. It also resulted in the rejection from the province of Lanao del Norte against the bid of 6 of its Muslim-majority towns to join the Bangsamoro, despite the 6 towns (Baloi, Munai, Nunungan, Pantar, Tagoloan and Tangcal) opting to join the Bangsamoro by a sheer majority with one town even voting for inclusion by 100%. A major camp of the MILF was within the Muslim areas of Lanao del Norte.[41][42]

Transition process

President Rodrigo Duterte sounds the agong during the inauguration of Bangsamoro. He is joined by Chief Minister Murad Ebrahim.

With the ratification of the Bangsamoro Organic Law following a plebiscite on January 21, 2019 the abolition process of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) begins paving way for the setting up of the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region. Under the law a transition body, the Bangsamoro Transition Authority (BTA), is to be organized pending the election of the new region's government officials in 2022. The second part of the plebiscite held on February 6, 2019 expanded the scope of the future Bangsamoro region to include 63 barangays in North Cotabato.[43] The members of the Bangsamoro Transition Authority took their oaths on February 22, 2019 along with the ceremonial confirmation of the plebiscite results of both the January 21, and February 6, 2019 votes. The official turnover from the ARMM to the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region took place on February 26, 2019 which meant the full abolition of the former.[44][45]

The inauguration of the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao and the inaugural session of the Bangsamoro Parliament took place on March 29, 2019.[46]

Murad Ebrahim takes office as the first Chief Minister of BARMM.[47]

The Bangsamoro parliament has requested that the BTA be extended for an additional three years past 2022, to allow further time for transition.[48]

Administrative divisions

Bangsamoro consist of 3 component cities, 116 municipalities, and 2,590 barangays. The city of Isabela, despite being part of Basilan, is not under the administrative jurisdiction of the autonomous region. Likewise, 63 barangays in North Cotabato also are part of Bangsamoro despite North Cotabato and their respective parent municipalities not being under the administrative jurisdiction of the autonomous region.[49]

Ph Bangsamoro Autonomous Region.png


Between the ratification of the Bangsamoro Organic Law and the inauguration of its first permanent government in 2022, the Bangsamoro Transition Authority will head the region. After the ratification of the BOL, the Bangsamoro Transition Commission (BTC) begins to transition the ARMM into the BARMM.

Organizational structure

Wa'lī Kalifa Usman Nando (left) and Chief Minister Murad Ebrahim (right)

Based on the Organic Law, the autonomous Bangsamoro government system is parliamentary-democratic similar to the one practised in the United Kingdom which is based on a political party system.[50]


The ceremonial head of the region is a Wa'lī. The Bangsamoro Parliament selects and appoints the Wa'lī. The Wa'lī have ceremonial functions and powers such as moral guardianship of the territory and convocation and dissolution of its proposed legislature.[51]


The regional government is headed by a Chief Minister. Murad Ebrahim is the current Chief Minister who was appointed by the Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte on an interim basis. The Interim Chief Minister also the head of the Bangsamoro Transition Authority which also serves the function of the transitional Bangsamoro Parliament.

Once the first regular session of the Bangsamoro Parliament is organized in 2022, the Chief Minister will be elected by the members of the Bangsamoro Parliament. The Chief Minister of the Bangsamoro is the chief executive of the regional government, and is assisted by a cabinet not exceeding 10 members. The holder of this position appoints the members of the cabinet, subject to confirmation by the Bangsamoro Parliament. The chief minister has control of all the regional executive commissions, agencies, boards, bureaus, and offices.


The Bangsamoro Cabinet is composed of two Deputy Chief Minister and Ministers from the members of the Parliament. The Deputy Chief Ministers are selected through nomination of the Chief Minister and are elected by the members of the Parliament. The Ministers in the cabinet on their part are appointed by the Chief Minister.[52]

Council of Leaders

The Council of Leaders advises the Chief Minister on matters of governance of the autonomous region. It is roughly an equivalent of an unelected Senate, though only advisory, without legislative powers, and not part of the Parliament.[52]

The council consist of the:

  • Chief minister
  • Members of the Congress from the Bangsamoro
  • Governors and mayors of chartered cities in the Bangsamoro
  • Representatives of traditional leaders, non-Moro indigenous communities, women, settler communities, the Ulama, youth, and Bangsamoro communities outside the region.
  • Other sector representatives subject to mechanism laid out by the parliament


The Bangsamoro Parliament convening at the Shariff Kabunsuan Cultural Complex in Cotabato City.

Under the Bangsamoro Organic Law, the Bangsamoro Parliament serves as the legislature of the autonomous region, mandated to have 80 members and is led by the Speaker. The Wa'lī, a ceremonial head, could dissolve the parliament.

Regional ordinances are created by the Bangsamoro Parliament, composed of Members of Parliament. Members are meant to be elected by direct vote. Regional elections are planned to be held one year after general elections (national and local) depending on legislation from Congress. The first Bangsamoro regional elections are to be held in 2022. Regional officials have a fixed term of three years, which can be extended by an act of Congress.

Under the Bangsamoro Organic Law ratified in 2019, the Bangsamoro Transition Authority (BTA), was organized as a transition body pending the election of the new region's government officials in 2022, with the first regular session of the parliament to be held in 2022.


Template:See also The Bangsamoro Autonomous Region has its own regional justice system which applies Shari'ah to its residents like its predecessor the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao. Unlike its predecessor though, the Bangsamoro Organic Law, which became effective as of August 10, 2018,[53] has a provision for the creation of a Shari'ah High Court, which, if and when realized, would consist of five justices including a presiding justice and would oversee appellate courts, district courts, and circuit courts. Non-Muslims could also volunteer to submit themselves under the jurisdiction of Shari'ah law. The Bangsamoro justice system also recognizes traditional or tribal laws but these would only apply to disputes of indigenous peoples within the region.[54]

Relation to the central government

Bangsamoro Organic Law provides that BARMM "shall remain an integral and inseparable part of the national territory of the Republic." The President exercises general supervision over the regional Chief Minister. The regional government has fiscal autonomy or the power to create its own sources of revenues and to levy taxes, fees, and charges, subject to Constitutional provisions and the provisions of No. 11054. The regional government have to gain approval from the central government's Department of Finance to receive donations and grants from foreign entities.[55]


Cultural heritage

The people of the Bangsamoro region, including Muslims, Lumads, and Christians, have a culture that revolves around kulintang music, a specific type of gong music, found among both Muslim and non-Muslim groups of the Southern Philippines. Each ethnic group in BARMM also has their own distinct architectures, intangible heritage, and craft arts.[56][57] A fine example of a distinct architectural style in the region is the Royal Sulu architecture which was used to make the Daru Jambangan (Palace of Flowers) in Maimbung, Sulu. The palace was demolished during the American period after being heavily damaged by a typhoon in 1932, and was never rebuilt.[58][59] It used to be the largest royal palace built in the Philippines. A campaign to faithfully re-establish it in Maimbung town has been ongoing since 1933. A very small replica of the palace was made in a nearby town in the 2010s, but it was noted that the replica does not mean that the campaign to reconstruct the palace in Maimbung has stopped as the replica does not manifest the true essence of a Sulu royal palace. In 2013, Maimbung was designated as the royal capital of the former Sultanate of Sulu by one of the family claimants to the Sulu Sultanate throne where the pretenders are buried there.Template:Clarify[60][61]

Natural heritage

The region possesses a vast array of natural landscapes and seascapes with different types of environs. The mainland area includes the Liguasan Marsh, a proposed UNESCO tentative site, and Lake Lanao, one of the 17 most ancient lakes in the world. The Sulu archipelago region includes the Turtle Islands Wildlife Sanctuary (a UNESCO tentative site), Bongao Peak, and the Basilan Rainforest.

Proposed set-up in a federal government

The Bangsamoro Basic Law bill was considered for shelving by the 17th Congress of the Philippines. The bill was planned to be integrated to the federalism concept proposal by President Rodrigo Duterte.[62] In case the proposed federalism fails to be passed, President Duterte said that he will concede to the provisions of the bill.[63]

In January 2017, Nene Pimentel proposed in a federalism forum that the Bangsamoro state should be divided into two autonomous regions, namely, mainland Muslim Mindanao and the Sulu archipelago, as the two Muslim areas are distinct from each other in terms of culture.[64] He made the statement after going around the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao, whose people told him that the Muslims of the offshore islands (Basilan, Sulu, Tawi-Tawi) do not want to be lumped together with the mainland Muslims of Mindanao as they are distinct from each other. Pimentel also noted that Shariah law could only be applied in the Bangsamoro state (composed of Autonomous Region of Mainland Bangsamoro and Autonomous Region of Sulu) if the two parties are Muslims, but if one or both parties are non-Muslims, national law will always apply.[64]

See also


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  64. 64.0 64.1 Template:Cite document

External links

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