3 priorities for the interim Bangsamoro body
The Bangsamoro Organic Law has been ratified — a milestone in the long road to lasting peace in Mindanao.
The 80 members of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front-led Bangsamoro Transition Authority (BTA) will be appointed by the President in the coming days. The BTA will soon start to assert its influence in the region. The transition authority will run the regional government for three years. Soon after, regular elections will be held.
The BTA will have its policy priorities, specifically those that will lay the groundwork to resolve issues within the region. There are three major policy areas that the BTA focuses on to ensure stability: transitional justice, agrarian economy and the electoral system.
Transitional justice. The Bangsamoro struggle itself has revolved around the defense of rights. The Bangsamoro has a distinct history compared with the rest of the Philippines. How that history came to be relates strongly to the shared experiences of injustices committed against and experienced by the Moro people.
There is still a need to fill development gaps in the region. But, above all, the wounds inflicted by injustices remain unhealed. The trampled dignity of a nation cannot be restored by embalming it in a façade of shallow transformation, in moving forward without healing. Extremism has been exploited by radicals to incite violence. If there is a viable weapon to fight extremism, it is healing.
The BTA has the opportunity to champion the nation in advancing transitional justice. No one should expect any other institution to advance this cause more effectively than the BTA. Thus, an institution composed of Bangsamoro leaders represents the aspiration of a nation longing for peace and justice.
Agrarian economy. During the transition period, we must champion agriculture, which made up 56.4 percent of the region’s gross regional domestic product in 2018. It is to the region’s comparative advantage to do so. The Bangsamoro region leads in supplying the country coffee, coconut, cassava, corn and rubber, apart from the marine and aquaculture products that are also being exported.
Policies harnessing an improved agrarian economy should be prioritized by the BTA, through appropriate institutionalization. From land administration, the region should move toward investing in related technologies as well as equipping the populace with skills necessary for advancement.
How these can be institutionalized should be embedded in the educational system. Hence, a multisectoral collaboration is necessary to develop the farming and fishery sectors. The Bangsamoro could eventually ship quality exports to countries in the Association of Southeast Asian Nations.
Electoral system. The first members of the Bangsamoro parliament are to be appointed by the President. After three years, regular elections will be held.
Given the history of existing governmental structures, the parliamentary system and its setup of proportional representation are unfamiliar territory; it will be a challenge for the BTA to ensure that the number of seats for parties is proportionate to the number of votes. It necessitates translating the magnitude of votes into a proportional and effective number of representatives.
The set of rules in the electoral code should also inspire institutionalization and the repair of the political system in the country. It should set the grounds for party discipline, to mitigate turncoatism and the capture of the system by dynastic clans.
Undeniably, the Bangsamoro has a long way to go in achieving the dreams and aspirations of its people. Advancing transitional justice is long overdue, and as the saying goes: “Justice delayed is justice denied.” Now is the best time and opportunity for healing.
With these three major policy priorities, the BTA can bring about an effective platform on which all other policies can prosper. This will set the foundation for future stability, economic growth and good governance in the Bangsamoro region.
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Ameen Camlian, from Basilan province, earned his public policy degree with focus on international relations from the National Graduate Institute for Policy Studies in Tokyo, Japan. Currently, he is working as the public relations officer for the Independent Decommissioning Body.
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