The history of the ARMM has always been intertwined with the struggle of the Muslim peoples of Mindanao towards self-rule and self-determination. These peoples, who, now collectively call themselves “Bangasamoro” wanted to shape their own destiny under Islamic law and culture. They had repelled the influence of foreign domination particularly the Spaniards, Japanese, and Americans. Their land was nevertheless annexed into the Philippine government after the Americans gave independence to the Philippines.
Mindanao was opened to Christian settlers, mostly from the Visayas, by the late President Ramon Magsaysay under his populist platform of economic reforms. These relieved population pressure from the north and made the president widely popular among the Filipinos but it heightened religious hostilities in Mindanao. Mindanao’s rich natural resources were shared with the rest of the Philippines.
The situation worsened when unscrupulous persons, politicians and businessmen, took advantage of the people’s low economic state. Land grabbing and social injustices were committed against the region’s peace-loving people. This forced the people of Mindanao to rise in protest against the Philippine government.
On March 18, 1968, at least 23 Muslim Trainees were shot to death on Corregidor Island, which is to be known later as the Jabidah Massacre. The event sparked anger among the Muslims and gave rise to Bangsamoro movements both civil and armed. The Moro National Liberation Front was born under the leadership of Prof.Nur Misuari.
The MNLF and the Philippine Armed Forces had an armed conflict on February 1973 which led to the death and displacement of thousands of innocents and further escalated the so-called Mindanao problem. Hostilities continued despite the signing on July 7, 1975 by President Ferdinand E. Marcos of Presidential Decree No. 742 and Letter of Instruction 290 creating the Western and Central Mindanao regions and establishing the Office of the Regional Commissioner (ORC) in both regions. Thus, the Organization of Islamic Conference (OIC) intervened leading to the signing of the Tripoli Agreement between the Philippine Government and the MNLF in Tripoli, Libya on December 23, 1976. In compliance therewith, President Marcos signed Presidential Proclamation No. 1628 on March 25 1977 creating an Autonomous Region in Southern Philippines.
A referendum-plebiscite was held on April 17, 1977, however, the people opted to retain the original geo-political subdivisions of Western and Central Mindanao. Thus, on July 25, 1979, Batas Pambansa No. 20 was enacted creating the Regional Autonomous Government in Western and Central Mindanao. Unfortunately, still the mujahideens were not appeased and continued with their revolutionary ideals.
In 1986, President Corazon C. Aquino pursued a more vigorous approach to solve the Mindanao problem through peace negotiations. The Jeddah Accord signed on February 3, 1987 by the Philippine Govemment and the MNLF, was a commitment to continue the talks on the full implementation of a more meaningful regional autonomy.
The Aquino govemment, despite failure of negotiations, sought the creation of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) by enshrining it in the 1987 Philippine Constitution. President Aquino convened the Regional Consultative Council tasked to draft the Organic Act for Muslim Mindanao. In 1988, the Organic Act was finally completed and submitted to the Philippine Congress for deliberation and approval.
On August 1, 1989, Republic Act No. 6734, otherwise known as the Organic Act of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao, was signed into law by then President Corazon C. Aquino. On November 17, 1989, a plebiscite was conducted in the proposed areas of ARMM wherein only four provinces opted to join the area of autonomy. These are the provinces of Maguindanao, Lanao del Sur, Tawi-Tawi and Sulu.
The first election in ARMM was held on February 17, 1990. The first Regional Governor elect was Atty. Zacaria Candao who took his oath of office on July 6 1990 and significantly started the formal operation of the ARMM. Succeeding set of officials took their terms of office on April 2, 1993 where Lininding P. Pangandaman was elected as the second Regional Governor, following the administration of Atty. Candao.
On September 2, 1996, the MNLF and the Philippine Government signed the final Peace Agreement which led to the election of MNLF chairman NurMisuari as Regional Governor of ARMM.
The Peace Agreement also paved way for the creation of the Special Zone of Peace and Development (SZOPAD) and Southern Philippines Council for Peace and Development (SPCPD) which were established by virtue of Executive Order No. 371 on October 21, 1996 by then President Fidel V. Ramos and named Governor Misuari as the SPCPD Chairman.
Meanwhile, the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), another Moro armed group, continued with their struggle due to unsettled differences and ideologies with the MNLF. Armed clashes between the military and the MILF escalated to a full war by the year 2000 displacing some 400,000 persons.
When Pres. Gloria Macapagal Arroyo assumed the Presidency on January 2001 after the ouster of President Joseph E. Estrada, she reversed the all-out war policy of the Estrada Administration and initiated peace talks which led to the signing of a ceasefire agreement on June 22, 2001.
To sustain the peace and development efforts in Mindanao and as part of the commitment to the 1996 Peace Agreement, President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo supported the September 2001 plebiscite for the ratification of Republic Act 9054, expanding the area of autonomy. The ARMM is now comprised of the provinces of Maguindanao, Lanao del Sur, Sulu, Tawi-Tawi, Basilan and the Islamic City of Marawi.
Dr. Farouk Hussien was installed as the Regional Governor for the expanded ARMM area on January 2002 as a result of the election conducted on November 2001.
For the succeeding years starting from 2005 and during the 2008 ARMM election, Datu Zaldy Ampatuan consistently won and took the role as the Regional Governor. Unfortunately, the controversial “Maguindanao massacre” in 2009, involving Andal Ampatuan Jr., the brother of Datu Zaldy, became the vital reason to expel Datu Zaldy Ampatuan from his public office. By succession, the next-in-rank Regional Vice Governor Ansaruddin Alonto then assumed the Regional Governor on an acting capacity.
On June 30, 2011, President Benigno Simeon C. Aquino III, the son of late former President Cory Aquino, signed into law R.A. 10153. The law provides for synchronization of the ARMM elections with the national elections. The schedule of the ARMM elections was thereby moved from October 2011 to May 2013. So as not to create a power vacuum on the region’s autonomous government, the law also authorized the President of the Republic to appoint Officers-in-Charge. The President then saw this as an oppurtunity to instill his ‘Tuwid na daan’ advocacy and reforms in the region, hence, appointed Muslim Activist and former AMIN partylist representative Mujiv S. Hataman.
OIC Regional Governor Mujiv S. Hataman proved to be catalyst of the President Aquino’s reform agenda in the region and earned the trust of the people of ARMM even with just a 15-month term as Officer-in-Charge.
A Framework Agreement on the Bangasamoro between the Moro Islamic Liberation Front was signed October 15, 2012. The Framework Agreement, which paved the way for talks between the government and MILF towards coming up with a comprehensive and sustainable solution to the Bangsamoro plight by 2016, including a transitional government takeover of ARMM by 2015. President Aquino, confident that Hataman would allow for that smooth transition by stepping down when that time comes, asked Hataman himself to continue the reforms in the region in preparation for the Bangsamoro government by running for a fresh mandate.
The May 13, 2013 synchronized national and ARMM elections concluded an overwhelming support for Mujiv Hataman in tandem with his Regional Vice Governor Moy Lucman, garnering about 500,000 votes. This was considered a landslide victory for him. Thus, he assumed office on July 1, 2013 as a full-fledged Regional Governor.
Article is a work of many contributing authors.