𝘉𝘈𝘙𝘔𝘔 𝘢𝘴 𝘵𝘩𝘦 𝘗𝘦𝘢𝘤𝘦𝘣𝘶𝘪𝘭𝘥𝘪𝘯𝘨 𝘢𝘯𝘥 𝘕𝘢𝘵𝘪𝘰𝘯 𝘉𝘶𝘪𝘭𝘥𝘪𝘯𝘨 𝘐𝘯𝘧𝘳𝘢𝘴𝘵𝘳𝘶𝘤𝘵𝘶𝘳𝘦 𝘪𝘯 𝘚𝘰𝘶𝘵𝘩𝘦𝘳𝘯 𝘔𝘪𝘯𝘥𝘢𝘯𝘢𝘰
While global peacebuilding efforts seem to be under assault, the Philippines’ own local peacebuilding infrastructure that is the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao(BARMM) serves as a beacon of hope for a sustainable peace and order in Mindanao. The passage and ratification of the Bangsamoro Organic Law in 2019 is the result of a decades-long peacebuilding drive towards nation and state building by the government as it recognizes the unique histories, origins, laws, cultures and societies of the Bangsamoro people. The same BOL brought forth the creation of the Bangsamoro Transition Authority (BTA).
The BTA have been faced with huge challenges since its conception. The timelines set forth by the Bangsamoro Organic Law were admittedly short and even optimistic considering the complexity and magnitude of the BTA’s mandate. Nearly a year into the transition period, the COVID-192 pandemic hit the entire country. By mid-2020, the BTA had to prioritize its pandemic response. Despite these, we cannot also deny the significant milestones that have been achieved by the BTA in its first three years.
𝘉𝘛𝘈 𝘪𝘯 𝘉𝘶𝘪𝘭𝘥𝘪𝘯𝘨 𝘊𝘢𝘱𝘢𝘤𝘪𝘵𝘪𝘦𝘴 𝘧𝘰𝘳 𝘓𝘰𝘤𝘢𝘭 𝘈𝘶𝘵𝘰𝘯𝘰𝘮𝘺
Out of the six (6) priority legislations embedded in its mandate, the BTA has already successfully passed and enacted three major legislations of which are- the Administrative Code, the Civil Service Code, and the Education Code. With the passage of these Codes, the BTA has significantly jumpstarted the process of building up its capacities to establish credible, transparent, participatory, and efficient public institutions. These are all keys to attaining peace, stability and sustainable development in fragile post-conflict setting of BARMM.
Achieving developmental goals like poverty reduction, improved health and quality education is innately linked to institutional capacity, good governance, and sound fiscal management. Thus, the importance of the abovementioned enacted Codes, as well as the remaining priorities legislation, cannot be understated because of their enormous significance to institutional capacity of the BARMM. A stronger BARMM bureaucracy will largely depend on the foundation laid by the BTA. This will enable the Bangsamoro government to deliver on its social and political promises along with the needed public goods and services such as security, health care, education, and infrastructure.
As such, strong bureaucracy entails a solid governance infrastructure, competent human resource, enhanced fiscal capacity and good financial management. These three elements are contained in the very fabric of the BOL and the BTA’s mandate. Thus, the justifiable extension of the BARMM’s transition period has allowed the BTA flexibility and sufficient time to accomplish its governance objectives.
One of these governance objectives is the development and management of its human resources. This requires the BTA to attract and to retain much-needed staff with appropriate skills and values. The lack of staff capacity in any organization or agency typically results to weak planning and budgeting structures and ineffectual program implementation. It should be noted that a very crucial component for a strong bureaucracy is the quality, capacity and competence of its human resources. With the term extension, the BTA will have adequate time to more than fulfill its human resource requirement and to provide quality service that embody its guiding principle of moral governance.
Other areas of institution building that BTA hopes to address are the fiscal capacity building and its financial management. It has already identified revenue generation and economic comparative advantage under its 12-point priority agenda for 2023-2025. It should be noted that there is a two-way relationship between the revenue and expenditure sides of fiscal capacity: governments need revenue in order to provide services, but they must provide services in order for people to be willing to pay taxes. With the Revenue Code underway, the BTA has already taken steps to materialize the BARMM’s fiscal capacity.
This fiscal capacity enshrines and legitimizes BARMM as an autonomous government because it ensures sustainable funding to support and maintain its operations and delivery of services and goods to its constituents. Enhanced fiscal capacity is equivalent to greater local fiscal autonomy. Improved fiscal autonomy of BARMM will signify more power to create its own sources of revenue in addition to its equitable share in the national taxes. More importantly, the BARMM will have more authority and control on how to allocate its resources in accordance with its own priorities. To attain true local autonomy, the BARMM has to achieve genuine local fiscal autonomy.
𝘕𝘦𝘸 𝘉𝘛𝘈 𝘵𝘰 𝘤𝘰𝘯𝘵𝘪𝘯𝘶𝘦 𝘵𝘩𝘦 𝘨𝘢𝘪𝘯𝘴 𝘰𝘧 𝘱𝘦𝘢𝘤𝘦 𝘱𝘳𝘰𝘤𝘦𝘴𝘴
Local autonomy of BARMM carries the promise of sustainable peace and development for the region. However, said promise can be much better fulfilled through strategic, data-based planning, and proactive legislation. With more than adequate socio-economic and ecological data available from various local and international sources and its unique governance structure, the BTA has been presented with the huge opportunity to connect data-based planning with data-driven public decision-making of the Bangsamoro authorities. The fused executive and legislative powers and functions make BTA inherently empowered to make public policies and programs quicker and more responsive to address socio-structural roots of conflict and the day to day realities of its communities.
Despite huge challenges, the extension term given to the BTA and the introduction of new members has provided for the continuity and enhancement of said capacities and opportunities for BARMM. The recent appointment of new personalities from various background and fields means injection of new blood and energy as well as introduction of new perspectives and additional expertise in the BTA Parliament. These new members combined with seasoned legislators of the previous Parliament must be received with optimism and renewed hope for successful enactments of more laws such as the Local Government Code, Revenue Code, Electoral Code and the Indigenous Peoples Code, prescribed by the BOL and more.
The status quo in the BARMM paves the way to strengthen our peacekeeping interventions, putting a great emphasis on what is already effective and efficient. The newly elected President Ferdinand Marcos, Jr has acknowledged the vital work the BTA has done during its first three years. He has already pledged his full support to the newly rejuvenated BTA in its accomplishment of its core mandates, functions and goals to realize the national aspiration of lasting peace and development of BARMM.
*This article is an original piece written by the Office of MP Mitmug – Communications Division. Photos courtesy by OPAPPRU.