The history of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) can only be understood in the context of how the Bangsamoro people continuously struggle for self-rule and self-determination and how the national politics address the “Moro problem.”
The creation of which was enshrined in the 1987 Constitution and established by Republic Act 9054, the ARMM is now composed of the provinces of Basilan, Lanao del Sur, Maguindanao, Sulu and Tawi-Tawi, and the cities of Marawi and Lamitan.
The ARMM today underwent a series of structural and systemic modifications, starting from the regional regroupings in 1975 up to the expansion of the regional government in 2002.
The “Moro Problem”
Tracing back, the “Moro problem” was first formally mentioned during the speech of Datu Alaoya Alonto, the Sultan sa Ramain convention delegate who represented Lanao during the 1934 Constitutional Convention.
It should be noted however that as early as 1902, the letters of the Sulu Datus and Sultans addressed to the U.S. Government show that the Bangsamoro struggle on self-determination has historical, legal, and political claims.
The series of human rights violations against the Muslim Filipinos during the Marcos Regime aggravated the “Moro problem” which sparked the creation of Muslim Independence Movement (MIM) in 1968 and the rebellion led by the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) under Nur Misuari in 1973.
The ORC and Internal Autonomy in the Two Autonomous Regions
The Office of the Regional Commission of Region XII was established on July 7, 1975 by virtue of Presidential Decree No. 742 and Letter of Instruction 290, along with Regions IX, X and XI. Region IX was composed of Basilan, Sulu, Tawi-Tawi and Zamboanga del Sur, and the cities of Pagadian and Zamboanga, with Jolo as the Regional Center; while Region XII included the provinces of Lanao del Norte, Lanao del Sur, Maguindanao, North Cotabato and Sultan Kudarat, and the cities of Cotabato, Iligan and Marawi, with Cotabato as the Regional Center. On August 21 of the same year, President Ferdinand Marcos reorganized Region IX into Sub-Region IX-A and Sub-Region IX-B, with Basilan, Sulu and Tawi-Tawi, and Zamboanga del Norte, Zamboanga del Sur and the cities of Dipolog, Dapitan, Pagadian and Zamboanga respectively.
Following the signing of the Tripoli Agreement on December 23, 1976 which called for the establishment of autonomy covering 13 provinces and 9 cities in Mindanao, Presidential Decree No. 1628 declared the areas covered in the Tripoli Agreement as areas of autonomy. An Interim Government was organized consisting of a Chair and Co-Chair with the Provincial Governors and City Mayors of the 13 provinces and 9 cities as members. Sultan Moh’d Ali Dimaporo and Simeon Datumanong became the Chair and Co-Chair of the Interim Government respectively. The referendum/plebiscite on April 17, 1977 showed that only the provinces under Region IX and XII had voted for autonomy. Regions IX was composed of the provinces of Basilan, Sulu and Tawi-Tawi, and Zamboanga del Norte, Zamboanga del Sur and the cities of Dipolog, Dapitan, Pagadian and Zamboanga; while Region XII was composed of the provinces of Lanao del Norte, Lanao del Sur, Maguindanao, North Cotabato and Sultan Kudarat, and the cities of Cotabato, Iligan and Marawi.
Later in 1978, by Presidential Decree No. 1555, President Marcos changed the Regional Center of Region IX to Zamboanga City. The Regional Commissioners of Regions IX and XII were Romulo Espaldon and Simeon Datumanong, respectively.
Batas Pambansa Bilang Dalawampu (20), enacted by the Interim Batasang Pambansa on March 23, 1979, established the Legislative Assembly and the Executive Council of each of the two Autonomous Regions, as well as the manner of elections. Presidential Decree (PD) No. 1618, issued on July 25, 1979, defined the functions, powers and responsibilities of the Lupong Tagapagpaganap ng Pook (LTP) and Batasang Pampook (BP) as the executive and legislative arms of each of the Autonomous Governments. Section 4 of PD No. 1618 enumerated the scope of internal autonomy of the two Autonomous Regions.
On September 20, 1979, by virtue of PD No. 1639, President Marcos abolished the ORC of each of the regions. The executive powers were transferred to the Lupong Tagapagpaganap ng Pook.
Ulbert Ulama Tugung was appointed as Chair of LTP Region IX on December 9, 1979 while Simeon Datumanong as Chair of LTP Region XII. Nur Hussein Ututalum and Abul-Khayr Alonto became the first speakers of Legislative Assemblies in Regions IX and XII, respectively. In 1984, Amelil U. Malaguiok replaced Chairman Datumanong as the LTP of Region XII. The 1986 EDSA revolution came and toppled down Marcos from power. The then President Cory C. Aquino appointed Zacaria A. Candao LTP Chairman which was later succeeded by Abdulrahman Alam.
The Muslim members of the 1986 Constitutional Commission sponsored the grant of Muslim autonomy. The creation of two autonomous regions same can be found in the 1987 Constitution. The Regional Consultative Commission (RCC) drafted a bill which was later passed into law as Republic Act No. 6734 known as the Organic Act of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao. Only the provinces of Lanao del Sur (except for Marawi City), Maguindanao, Sulu and Tawi-Tawi voted to join the ARMM in a plebiscite that was conducted on November 1989.
The creation of the ARMM abolished the LTP, of which during that time, Dr. Ali Bashir Lucman held the position as the last LTP Chair.
The Leadership and Elections of the Autonomous Region
The Republic Act No. 6734, also known as Organic Act for the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao was signed into law on August 1, 1989 by President Cory C. Aquino and was ratified in a plebiscite in November 1989. It was composed of the four (4) provinces of Lanao del Sur, Maguindanao, Sulu and Tawi-Tawi.
The ARMM had its first election, on February 17, 1990, by virtue of the Transitory Provision in RA 6734 that the election will not be earlier than 60 days or later than 90 days after the law has been ratified. Zacaria Candao assumed the position as the first Regional Governor of the ARMM with Benjamin Loong as the Regional Vice-Governor. Governor Candao stayed in the position for three (3) years and initiated the devolution of several national agencies and directed his administration towards its two-pronged goals: peace and development.
The second regional election was held in the four provinces on March 25, 1993. Section 1 of RA 7647 states that the date of ARMM election will be on the second Monday after the Muslim Month of Ramadhan except on the second regular elections. Former Ambassador Lininding P. Pangandaman and Nabil Tan were elected as the second Regional Governor and Vice-Governor of the ARMM, respectively.
The third ARMM election was supposed to happen on March 4, 1996, but RA 8176, which was passed in less than 3 months before the scheduled election, moved the election to September 9, 1996. MNLF Chairman, Prof. Nu rMisuari and his running mate, Guimid Matalam won unopposed. Governor Misuari’s tenure of office served as a transitory towards the Phase 2 of the Final Peace Agreement wherein RA 6734 would be amended or repealed through congressional actions.
The 1999 election was supposedly on March 8, 1999 (based on RA 8176) but the law was approved on March 4, 1999, four days before the scheduled election. RA 8746 moved the date of election to Sept 13, 1999.
RA 8753 moved the date of polls five days before the election. The supposedly September 13, 1999 election was moved to September 11, 2000 by virtue of RA 8753 which was passed on September 8, 1999.
Then ten days before the supposedly September 11, 2000 election, the date of fourth ARMM election was moved again to May 14, 2001 (this time to coincide with the general election) under RA 8953. It was a certified urgent bill. It was filed on June 2, 2000; approved by the House on June 5, 2000; sent to the Senate on June 6, 2000; received by the Senate on June 14, 2000 before the Congress’ sine die adjournment. Despite the insufficient time-frame according to opposition, both chambers agreed to form a Constitutional Commission (ConCom) on August 21. The ConCom released the report on August 22. On August 31, the bill was transmitted to the President who approved it on September 1, ten days before the date of election.
RA 9012 which was approved on February 14, 2001 changed again the date of election, supposedly May 14, 2001 to September 10, 2001.
The fourth election was finally conducted on November 26, 2001. MNLF Vice-Chairman Dr. Parouk S. Hussin and Dr. Mahid M. Mutilan were elected as Regional Governor and Vice-Governor, respectively. This was shortly after the RA 9054 was passed into law, with the intention that it shall incorporate the provisions of the 1996 Final Peace Agreement between the government and the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF), amended the RA 6734 and including the City of Marawi and Province of Basilan to join the Expanded Autonomous Region.
Note that more than a month since the passage of RA 9012, RA 9054 aka the Organic Act of ARMM lapsed into a law without the President’s signature. This was the time of the so-called EDSA Dos where there was too much political instability in the country.
ARTICLE XVIII Transitory Provisions of RA 9054 provides that:
SEC. 7 First Regular Elections. – The first regular elections of the Regional Governor, Regional Vice Governor and members of the regional legislative assembly under this Organic Act shall be held on the second Monday of September 2001.
It was specific, only for the first regular election. It did not state that the next elections will be three years thereafter. The supposedly September 10, 2001 election was moved to November 25, 2001 by virtue of RA 9140. November 25, 2001 was the fourth ARMM election and the first ARMM election under the NEW Organic Act RA 9054.
Then came RA 9333 which changed the date of ARMM election to the second Monday of August. The August 8, 2005 and August 11, 2008 elections, the fifth and sixth ARMM elections respectively (or the second and third ARMM election based on the new Organic Act), were based on RA 9333.
The fifth ARMM election took place on August 8, 2005. Former RLA members Datu Zaldy Uy Ampatuan and Ansaruddin Alonto-Adiong assumed the title as the fifth Regional Governor and Vice-Governor, respectively.
Then Regional Vice-Governor Ansaruddin Alonto Adiong assumed into office as Acting Regional Governor on December 10, 2009 on account of the physical inability of then Regional Governor Zaldy Ampatuan to perform his functions.
In 2011, after passing the Election Synchronization Law, President Benigno S. Aquino III appointed former AMIN Partylist Representative Mujiv S. Hataman and Bainon Karon as OIC Regional Governor and OIC Regional Vice Governor, respectively. Thereafter, on May 13, 2013 election, the 7th ARMM election was synchronized with the national elections by virtue of RA 10153 which was passed into law on June 30, 2011.Mujiv S. Hataman won the seat as the sixth Regional Governor of ARMM, together with his running mate Haroun Al-Rashid Lucman as the Regional Vice-Governor.
The Regional Offices of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao is located in the ARMM Compound in Cotabato City.