The people of Mindanao have always looked forward to shaping their destiny through self-determination and self-rule. They have seen the rise of the first Filipino barangays ruled by the early datus. Major socio-political changes, however, happened when Shariff Kabunsuan, an Arab missionary, came and introduced Islam in Mindanao in the 15th century. This led to the formation of Islamic communities and the formation of the Islamic Sultanate, under one Supreme Council and eventually united the Mindanao mainland with its sub-urban islands. The united Muslim Mindanaoans repelled the influence of foreign domination particularly the Spaniards, Americans and Japanese.
It was President Ramon Magsaysay who opened Mindanao to Christian settlers, majority were from the Visayas, to share Mindanao's rich natural resources. The influx of settlers made Mindanao a place of diversified groups whose ethnicity, culture, traditions and beliefs never became a source of misunderstanding among the early Mindanaoans.
The situation changed when unscrupulous persons, mostly 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 which forced them to rise in protest and revolt against the government.
In February 1973, the Mindanao problem escalated into an armed conflict involving the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) and the Philippine Armed Forces. The conflict led to the death and displacement of thousands of innocent people.
On July 7, 1975, President Ferdinand E. Marcos signed 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. Hostilities, however, continued with armed confrontations between the MNLF and the military.
The situation led the Organization of Islamic Conference (OIC) to intervene which led to the signing of the Tripoli Agreement between the Philippine Government and the MNLF in Tripoli, Libya on December 23, 1976.
In compliance with the Tripoli Agreement, President Ferdinand E. Marcos signed Presidential Proclamation No. 1628 on 25 March 1977 forming an Autonomous Region in Southern Philippines.
This was subjected to a referendum-plebiscite on 17 April 1977. However, the people opted to retain the original geo-political subdivisions of Westem and Central Mindanao. This did not appease the Bangsa Moro Fronts which called the autonomous region as a unilateral implementation by the Manila govemment of the Tripoli Agreement and, as such, was not recognized by the mujahideens.
On July 25, 1979, Batas Pambansa No. 20 was enacted creating the Regional Autonomous Government in Westem and Central Mindanao region. This, however, did not still conciliate the mujahideens who still pursued 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, even the talks failed, sought the creation of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) by ensh(ining 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 set of ARMM officials was elected on February 17, 1990. The ARMM was formally operated on July 6, 1990 following the oath taking of Atty. Zacada A. Candao as its first Regional Govemor. The second batch of officials took office on Apdl 02, 1993 wherein Lininding P. Pangandaman was elected Regional Governor.
On September 2, 1996, the MNLF and the Philippine Government signed the final Peace Agreement which led to the election of MNLF chairman Nur Misuari as Regional Governor of ARMM.
The Peace Agreement also paved the way for the creation of the Special Zone of Peace and Development (SZOPAD) and Southern Philippines Council for Peace and Development (SPCPD) which was established by virtue of Executive Order No. 371 on October 21, 1996 by President Fidel V. Ramos. Governor Misuari was named SPCPD Chairman.
Meanwhile, the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), another Moro armed group, continued with their struggle. 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.
The November 2001 ARMM election installed Dr. Parouk Hussin on January 2002 as Regional Governor of the expanded ARMM.
Since 2005, Datu Zaldy Uy Ampatuan has been ARMM Regional Governor.