Bangsamoro as a "New Unity"

By Joy Aceron*

Last January 21, parts of Muslim Mindanao held a plebiscite to determine what will form the new Bangsamoro entity created through the Bangsamoro Organic Law (BOL), a landmark piece of legislation that is a product of decades of struggle of Moros for their right to self-determination. 

There is a critical misconception that is quite common even to those who would opt to give peace in Mindanao a chance. Some people who are mostly doubtful of the peace process are under the impression that the ratification of BOL is a victory for the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) that comes with a reward, including (to some, at least) the power over the to-be Bangsamoro entity itself. This is wrong. It is a big misconception and a misunderstanding. 

A Victory for All 

The ratification of BoL is a victory for the entire Philippines because it will end the ongoing conflict between the government and the MILF. Anything that stops hostilities in any part of the country--even in just a home--is always a victory for all.

The proposed Bangsamoro entity is a product of decades of thinking, reflection, discussions, trust-building and other peace-building efforts by numerous individuals, groups and institutions at the grassroots, in government, in civil society and social movements. It is the closest we got to a comprehensive solution to the seemingly unending conflict and the worsening underdevelopment and rule of a violent few in Mindanao. Some of the sharpest minds among our public leaders with solid credential in serving the Filipino interest have worked on it for decades. A lot of ordinary citizens in Mindanao, who face the wrath of war on a daily basis, are ready to put their faith in it. 

Let it be made clear that the establishment of the Bangsamoro does not mean we are giving the power to govern to an entity, not even to the MILF. The MILF must be commended for leading the Moro struggle for peace. The victory of MILF’s struggle lies in the democratic order that the peace process will enable. In a democratic Bangsamoro, a plurality of political forces, including the MILF, will participate democratically in politics and government that will take a ministerial form. 

The ministerial form of government is similar to a parliamentary form, which facilitates proportional representation ensuring broader programmatic representation. This is expected to facilitate the creation of programmatic political parties that will take part in elections offering a diverse set of platforms and programs. Such is a forward step in Philippine governance given the BoL’s attempt to correct an institutional flaw in our current electoral-political system that  concentrates power in the presidency which undermines accountability and collective formal and informal political processes.

Part of the peace agreement is the decommissioning of arms and the cessation of hostilities and use of violence. The MILF, under the peace agreement, will be surrendering their weapons and will be letting the rule of law prevail--a state that is almost non-existent in parts of Mindanao at the moment because of the continuing threat of war. A threat of war will persist and will continue to be justified for as long as a people with a unique history, culture and belief system are structurally excluded, with such structural exclusion legitimizing their use of violence.

Stronger Philippine Nation

The Philippines as a nation-state will be strengthened with the proposed Bangsamoro solution. A nation-state is weakened whenever its monopoly over the use of legitimate violence is threatened by an armed rebellion; it is strengthened when it ends the rebellion through peace. 

The social contract between the Filipino people and its government will be stronger by correcting a form of structural exclusion that has made us, the people, deeply divided for too long, rendering us weak in making those who hold power accountable to the common good--the difficult common good that can only be graspable when it is binding and made common by our unity and engagement.

A "New Unity"

The words of Pope Francis in a book he wrote when he was still Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio provides an apt framework of understanding the Bangsamoro solution: 

"I believe that war must never be the path to resolution, because that would imply that one of the two poles of tension absorbed the other. Neither does it resolve in a synthesis, which is a mix of the two extremes--a hybrid that has no future. The two poles of tension are resolved at a higher level, looking toward the horizon, not a synthesis, but in a new unity, in a new pole that maintains the virtue of both, it assumes them, and like that it can make progress. It is not an absorption, nor a hybrid synthesis, it is a new unity." (On Heaven and Earth, 217-218) 

Such is the idea of the Bangsamoro solution. The Bangsamoro is a "new unity," not Philippines absorbing the Bangsamoro, or the other way around. It is not even a synthesis, but a progress. The Philippine nation adopting a Bangsamoro solution "maintains the virtue of both, it assumes them" by resolving "two poles of tension" "at a higher level, looking toward the horizon." 

Let's give this "new unity" a chance. Let’s give Bangsamoro all our support and solidarity.

*Joy Aceron is Convenor-Director of G-Watch ( and Research Fellow at Accountability Research Center ( A Christian and an Ilocana, she is a supporter of the Bangsamoro peace process.