Facing the Prospects and Challenges of Political Reforms and Mindanao Peace Process

The Democratic Leadership and Active Civil Society Empowerment in the Bangsamoro (DELACSE Bangsamoro), a project fully-funded by the European Union (EU) and implemented by the consortium Konrad-Adenauer-Stiftung (KAS) Philippines and the Institute for Autonomy and Governance (IAG) conducted its first event in Manila, the “Forum on Political Reforms and the Mindanao Peace Process: Challenges and Prospects” on 20 November 2017 at the Makati Diamond Residences. At least 40 representatives from Civil Society Organizations (CSOs) in the Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) listened to the lectures of key experts on the Mindanao Peace Process and federalism.

Executive Director of the Institute of Political and Electoral Reforms Ramon Casiple gave a brief overview of the current political landscape under the Duterte administration. He explained how Duterte’s victory reflects the “protest vote” and that his transition government is also a movement that coincides with the global movement that is veering away from “Pax Americana”.

Bangsamoro Study Group Co-Convenor Atty. Naguib Sinarimbo discussed the two possible tracks for political reforms – the federal track and the legislative track. Political issues to watch out for include political clans, territory, and revenue allotment. Constitutional issues and division of powers between national and regional governments may also come in the way. The determination of majority is also important in a successful plebiscite. He strongly suggested speeding up the peace process because the delay may fuel irritants in Mindanao, such as the rise of violent extremism and the perception of abandonment, especially among Maranaos following the Marawi siege. Changing the Constitution to a federal one will “loosen it up” and make way for the genuine aspirations of the Bangsamoro.

DILG Assistant Secretary Jonathan Malaya, who is also the Executive Director of PDP-Laban Federalism Institute, took on the first session of the afternoon with a briefer on PDP-Laban’s proposed model for Federalism. The highlight of the shift to federalism is to devolve the powers to local governments to ensure that they can deliver basic services to their constituents efficiently – construction of schools, purchasing of books, and issuance of driver’s license, among others. In the semi-presidential federal government, the Senate will be elected by region to ensure fair and inclusive representation. Political turncoatism will also be prohibited to strengthen the political party’s purpose of promoting a political platform.

The last lecture of the day by Lito Monico Lorenzana, President of the Centrist Democracy Political Institute (CDPI) was an eye-opener for the participants. He laid out some hypotheses on Philippine political reforms in the current administration. According to Lorenzana, President Duterte “thought he could also act as mayor of the Philippines” but realized that the country’s problems were much bigger than he thought. This administration faces major structural problems that may delay the reforms. For Lorenzana, a revolutionary government may or may not work and encouraged the participants to actively participate in the political dialogue if they truly want reforms to happen.

Bangsamoro Transition Commission Commissioner Samira Gutoc-Tomawis capped of the day’s events with a reminder for the participants that the peace process cannot be divorced from political interests. Therefore, they should maximize all opportunities to engage in a political dialogue and agree on a common good for all stakeholders in the future Bangsamoro community.

DELACSE has been providing a venue for these stakeholders to participate in such dialogues through its capacity-building and knowledge transfer activities, such as Basic and Advanced Leadership Seminars, for civil society organization (CSO) leaders for the past few months since April in different areas in Mindanao. Recently, it organized the Bangsamoro Mission on Peaceful Democratic Sub-National Government, in cooperation with the Geneva-based foundation Centre for Humanitarian Dialogue (HD). At least 20 delegates, civil society leaders in their own organizations, went to Germany and the Kingdom of Belgium on October 8-14 to study models of democratic governance to get a better appreciation of autonomy, decentralization, and multi-level governance.

DELACSE will roll out Trainers’ Training Seminars for CSO leaders before the year ends. This 13-month project is also a fulfillment of EU’s pledge to peace and development in Mindanao.

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